Kvitova's barrage silences Azarenka in end

Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic yesterday became the first left-hander to reach the women's singles final since that other Czech Martina Navratilova, who was among those on Centre Court applauding her achievement, 17 years ago.

The 21-year-old eighth seed beat the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 and must now plot how to go one better than the great Navratilova, whose last Grand Slam singles final it was, went in losing in three sets to Conchita Martinez in 1994.

In reaching tomorrow's showpiece, Kvitova also goes one better than she did 12 months ago, when, unseeded, she lost in the semi-final to the eventual champion Serena Williams. She had never won a grass-court match before Wimbledon last year; now, she must surely deem it her favourite surface. She certainly mastered the grass, not to mention her opponent, in the first set yesterday. Rarely straying from the baseline, let alone serve-volleying like her idol Martina, she blasted the fourth seed Azarenka into virtual submission, with a barrage of powerful groundstrokes and six aces.

But as so mystifyingly often in tennis, the second set saw an almost complete reversal of form and fortune. Kvitova, previously so dominant, seemed to become assailed by anxiety, while Azarenka, the highest-seeded player left in the draw but playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final, settled into her stride, the long quavering wail that accompanies every shot sounding less and less like a lament. Kvitova, contrastingly, plays tennis noiselessly, with the notable exception of a loud, sudden squawk, as if somebody has inadvertently stepped on a chicken. But it is a squawk of pleasure, not pain, and in the second set there was little evidence of it.

In the deciding set, however, Kvitova reclaimed the initiative, although, having broken her opponent's opening service game, she then faced two break-back points at 3-1. It was the pivotal moment of the match, and once she had saved both points with some thunderous hitting, including a fiercely deep second serve, the outcome seemed assured. And so it proved; desperately though she tried, Azarenka was never able to claw her way back against a player ranked 62 in the world a year ago, but now firmly in the top 10 and rising.

Afterwards, the Belarusian, also 21, pointed out that, since March, everyone who has beaten her has gone on to win the tournament. With Maria Sharapova to face tomorrow, Kvitova might find that comforting. On the other hand, a curious statistical quirk is that no eighth seed has ever won a Grand Slam women's singles title. If she does lift the Venus Rosewater dish, she will join an exclusive club of left-handed champions, alongside the 1969 winner Ann Jones, and Navratilova, who prevailed nine times, most recently three months after Kvitova was born.

Whatever transpires, the Czech, voted WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2010, has already realised a dream. "It's something unbelievable to be in the final," she said.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home