Petra Kvitova plays this great game of ours with a simple plan. Here it is: whatever she sees she hits, and where it goes nobody knows.
She will play only one way this afternoon on Centre Court in what is by far and away the biggest moment of her young career. She is only 21 but she is big, strong and a runner. Man, she covers the court at speed, there is a real energy about her. And she has one big weapon against Maria Sharapova. She is a lefty.
Now I've been teaching and coaching tennis for six decades and lefties are far, far different from the majority of players – I'm talking those who are right-handed. They see the dimensions of the court differently, they have far more wrist acceleration and – I can't really explain this – plenty of this breed seem to have a different thought process.
There are two big advantages that Kvitova's left-handedness brings her with the serve and she will need both of them to combat Sharapova, who stands out with her crashing returns. The Russian's serving was a battle she too often lost in the semi-final but she kept breaking back to prevent her opponent from getting away. Kvitova has to serve well.
When, as a left-hander, she serves to the advantage side it takes the returner off the court and so opens it up for the server, this is even more so on grass with the ball bouncing lower. And when Kvitova serves to the other side, look out for how she will direct it into Sharapova's body, try ing to restrict her use of that thumping forehand. The aim is to make right-handed opponents return backhand and that again forces them off court into the alley.
Kvitova must make her serve count. That is all important. I watched Maria, 3-0 down and break point to go four love in the semi-final against Sabine Lisicki. And you know what? Maria stood there and said: "Hey baby, there's no way you're gonna win." It's a look I know so, so well. She's had it since she was nine years old and first arrived at my academy. Back then she was so skinny that if the wind blew she would be lifted off her feet, but she had that attitude and it used to scare girls a lot older than her I can tell you. Jelena Jankovic was two years older but she couldn't cope with Maria.
She has come through some tough times in recent years, with that serious shoulder op, and her attitude has got her out the other side. Now she's pretty damn close to being back to her formidable best.
Kvitova's second serve is not as good as Lisicki's and Sharapova knows how to break – just look what she did to Lisicki despite her own serve malfunctioning. Sharapova had 13 double-faults in the semi – and still won with plenty to spare. That's amazing and the problem for Kvitova is you can't imagine her serving so poorly again.
Holy cow, will Kvitova come at Sharapova. It's the only way she knows how. Her stats from the semi-final against Victoria Azarenka show she made plenty of errors and blazed plenty of forehands wide or long. But she kept going for it.
She's not going to change her philosophy and she mustn't. Her only chance is to go for broke, but this Centre Court is a stage Sharapova is well used to. Kvitova's time will come over the next few years but this afternoon Sharapova has the game, the power and the experience to give her the edge.
Maria Sharapova v Petra Kvitova
Russian Nationality Czech
24 Age 21
Bradenton, Fl Residence Fulnek, Cz Rep
Right-handed Plays Left-handed
6ft 2in Height 6ft
6 World ranking 8
23 Career titles 4
$15.2m Career prize-money $2.6m
W36 L7 Wimbledon record W12 L3
Winner Wimbledon best Final
W1 L0 Head-to-head W0 L1
8-15 Odds 6-4
Bollettieri's prediction Sharapova in threeReuse content