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Kvitova hunting for highs again at Wimbledon

  • Matt Trollope

Did Petra Kvitova unlock something with her third-set performance against Jasmine Paolini?

Kvitova served brilliantly and powered eight winners past the dynamic Italian to close out a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1 win that potentially laid some demons to rest at Wimbledon.

She had lost her past three matches on Centre Court, and four of her last five, despite being a two-time Wimbledon champion and at her best on grass courts. 

Her match against Paolini was initially scheduled for Court No.3, but was moved in a late decision to help clear a back-log of matches caused by London’s persistently rainy weather.

It was a pleasant outcome for the popular Czech, now 33, to return to a court that holds so many special career memories. It was even more pleasant to buck a perplexing trend of early defeats there.

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“I'm happy that I was able to play, especially to finish as well on beautiful Centre Court,” Kvitova said.

“It was a nice surprise for me. I'm happy that I played, I finished, I won.

“I think the third set is the best what I played. I'm pretty happy with the way I finished.”

Petra Kvitova in action during her first-round win over Jasmine Paolini. At her best, Kvitova's ball-striking remains almost unbeatable on grass. [Getty Images]

The world No.9 will hope to carry that fast-finishing momentum into her second-round match – which once would have been considered a given.

From early on in her career, this was a tournament at which her powerful game truly came alive. Beginning in 2010, she reached at least the quarterfinal stage in five consecutive visits, winning the 2011 and 2014 titles. At one point she won 15 consecutive sets at the All England Club.

Her 6-3 6-0 demolition of Eugenie Bouchard in 2014 is considered one of finest ever performances in a Grand Slam final. 

But since then, her results have tailed off sharply at her favourite tournament. 

In six subsequent matches on Centre Court, she has won just two – the most recent until Wednesday came back in 2017 – and she has never reached the quarterfinal stage again.

Curiously, she has entered several Wimbledons since her 2014 victory with a grass-court lead-up title under her belt. She has triumphed in Birmingham (twice) and at Eastbourne, as well as Berlin this year, proving her powerful left-handed ball-striking remains a force on grass.

Understandably, she is perennially considered among the favourites Wimbledon glory.

This year is no different; she was mentioned by almost every panel member in our 'Expert Picks' piece ahead of Wimbledon, with Nicole Pratt and Simon Rea picking her as their women’s champion. In their draw predictions, all three presenters of The Tennis Podcast have Kvitova in their semifinal line-up.

Kvitova has admitted she places perhaps too much importance on doing well here, a mindset arguably not helped by repeatedly arriving as one of the in-form grass-courters. 

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“I just love it here. Maybe that's why sometimes it's too hard for me to play … it's much bigger than the other things,” she once said.

“Every year is a big challenge for me, for sure. Dealing with the nerves and excitement in the same time is always a bit tough.”

So far, she’s toughing it out – which is good, since things will only get tougher from here.

Kvitova faces a potential second-round battle against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who eliminated her from the first round of Wimbledon in 2018. 

“I was really happy with my serve; I didn’t lose it today,” Kvitova said after surviving Paolini.

“So that’s very positive.”