First up on ladies’ semi-finals day is a showdown between Fed Cup teammates Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova. Check out the Kvitova vs Safarova Head to Head.
The only former champion left in the draw, 2011 Wimbledon winner Kvitova has been impressive throughout this year’s tournament. She blitzed her first and second round opponents for the loss of only five games in total, and produced solid displays in the last 16 and quarter-finals to end the hopes of Shuai Peng and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova respectively. Famously unreliable when it comes to dispatching lower ranked opponents, Kvitova has taken care of business impressively – the wobbles and doubts have been few and far between.
But her third round triumph over Venus Williams is the best indicator of her form so far. Kvitova never wavered during that match, even when she lost the first set and was two points from defeat in the second. She served well, hung with a smooth-moving Venus from the back of the court and found the lines with booming groundstrokes time and time again. In short, she looked like a grass court great at the peak of her powers, a woman ready to launch a serious assault on the title.
While Kvitova is now a familiar presence in the latter stages of Wimbledon, her semi-final opponent on Thursday is not. Lucie Safarova has carved out an entirely respectable career on the WTA Tour since turning pro in 2002, earning well over $4 million in prize money, hoisting five singles trophies and reaching a career-high ranking of 17 a couple of years ago. But only twice has she been beyond the last 16 of a Grand Slam – her previous best result was the quarters of the Australian Open in 2007.
How has she done so well at this year’s Championships? By keeping her head as less consistent rivals lost theirs. She beat Julia Goerges in two tie-breaks in round one, then edged Polona Hercog 7-5, 7-6 in the second round. Next came a strong performance against the struggling Dominika Cibulkova, followed by a rout of qualifier Tereza Smitkova. Safarova saved her best tennis for the quarter-finals, losing a mere four games to a nervous Ekaterina Makarova.
Kvitova’s status as heavy favourite in this match is a cause for concern among her many admirers. Her up-and-down 2014 results show what can happen when she meets a less illustrious opponent: in the first round of the Australian Open, she fell to 88th-ranked Luksika Kumkhum; in Stuttgart, she was beaten in straight sets by world number 102 Alisa Kleybanova. Yet although those head-scratching results are a core part of the Kvitova mystique, so are the days on which she looks unbeatable – her stunningly nerveless dismissal of Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final three years ago is a prime example.
After a wacky week and a half that has seen the biggest names tumble, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if the “bad Kvitova” shows up and loses to Safarova. But the sixth seed seems determined to atone for Wimbledon 2013 when, facing a similarly open draw, she fell to Kirsten Flipkens. Kvitova has beaten Safarova five times out of five, most recently at Eastbourne in a match that ended 7-6 in the decider. She has a bigger, more accurate serve, is a better volleyer, and most importantly knows what she’s doing at this stage of a major. She should make her second Wimbledon final with a convincing straight sets win.