For the second day running Centre Court hosted a meeting of two friends and compatriots and as with Roger Federer against Stan Wawrinka, the more strongly fancied player came through. Like Federer, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic spoke later about the difficulties of playing an old mate, but she too allowed no sympathy to impair her ruthlessness in despatching Lucie Safarova 7-6, 6-1.
That puts her through to a second final in three years and having won in 2011 against Maria Sharapova she has the opportunity against Eugenie Bouchard on Saturday to become the only current women’s player other than the Wlliams sisters to have won the Wimbledon title more than once.
What is evident, if only reluctantly acknowledged by Kvitova, is that she should have achieved far more in between times. There have been semi-finals in the Australian and French Opens and two Wimbledon quarter-finals, but no more. Last year here, with her half of the draw opening up, she went out to the 20th seed Kirsten Flipkens and in the Australian earlier this year her downfall was the 88th ranked Luksika Kumkhum.
“I think these three years were really up and down,” she admitted. “I knew that a lot of people are expecting from me something more than I did probably. But on the other side, I was still in the top 10 and I did everything what I could. It’s never easy. Definitely when I won here I needed to change a little bit myself on the court and off the court, as well, to get used to the pressure, media, and everything like that. It was difficult for me to handle it definitely.”
Safarova, another left-hander and four years older at 27, is like one of those lower-middle ranking Premier League teams who will occasionally beat the top 10 without genuinely threatening their supremacy. She returned exceptionally well, using past knowledge to anticipate where the favourite’s shots would be aimed, but was up against Kvitova’s superior crashing forehands and bigger serve.
If there was a warm greeting between the two before and after the match, they could be forgiven for being tired of the sight of each other. This was a fifth encounter this year – all won by Kvitova– the most recent having come only a couple of weeks ago at Eastbourne, when Kvitova was pushed all the way to victory after a tie-break in the final set.
Concerned by a tight hamstring the following day, she withdrew from the tournament, allowing Britain’s Heather Watson a place in the semi-final. It proved a sound decision, the presence of a bandage being the only lingering evidence of any problem throughout the past fortnight.
After a couple of straightforward matches involving a 6-0 second set, the No 6 seed came through one of the most absorbing women’s matches here against Venus Williams and has found the subsequent contests with Shuai Peng, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and now Safarova more comfortably all without conceding a set.
That record was in jeopardy only briefly, when the two Czech mates exchanged breaks of serve early on and proceeded to a tie-break. One bad forehand sent wide cost Safarova, and Kvitova was always likely to take advantage of a set point on her serve, which she duly did.
That had all taken the best part of an hour but the second set was over in barely half the time. Breaking early again, Kvitova this time consolidated the gain for a lead never threatened. Serving for the match she sent down her eighth ace to earn three match points and converted the first of them with a backhand into an empty half of the court.
“I knew that it was going to be very tough match,” the winner said later. “She really deserved to be in the semi-final. She played great in the first set and was really close every point what we played.
“From the beginning, both of us were very nervous, so it was a difficult curve that,” Kvitova added. “Of course, when you are playing a leftie on the grass it’s more difficult than normally, I think. I’m just glad that I served well today. I think it was maybe the key of the match then.”
Her first thoughts on Bouchard were: “I find her a very solid and talented player. She really seems that she is confident in her game right now. She’s moving very well, playing aggressively from nearby the baseline. But there are no favourites in a Grand Slam final.”
6 P Kvitova (Cz Rep) bt 23 L Safarova (Cz Rep) 7-6 6-1
8 Aces 4
3 Double-faults 2
70% First serve pts won 61%
112mph Fastest serve 108mph
50% Break points won 50%
24 Winners 18
13 Unforced errors 7