Kvitova feeling it on the grass


LONDON -- Petra Kvitova can't quite articulate why her game is so right for Wimbledon. She just knows that it is.

"I just probably feel the grass," she explained. "I just know that it suits me well and I can really play my best tennis on that."

Three years ago, the long lefty roared through the field here, beating Maria Sharapova in the final for her first Grand Slam singles title. She was just 21 -- and the first player of either gender born in the 1990s to win a major championship.

She's still the only one, but that may well change by the end of the fortnight here at the All England Club. Eugenie Bouchard, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic all reached the semifinals and are children of the '90s.

Kvitova had little trouble with fellow Czech Republic player and good friend Lucie Safarova, winning 7-6 (6), 6-1 to advance to the Wimbledon final for a second time. There was an inevitability to this 80-minute non-starter. It was the fifth time Kvitova has beaten Safarova this year and, oddly, her third Czech opponent in six matches here.

After Kvitova stroked a routine backhand winner into the open court, she clenched her fists and leaned back with a huge smile. She hugged Safarova warmly at the net, clapped with her racket and blew kisses to all four sides of Centre Court.

How much does Kvitova love it here? This is her 12th tournament of the season -- she's played all over the world, from Sydney to Doha to Stuttgart to Eastbourne -- and she's reached her first final at a major that might have the highest degree of difficulty of them all.

"I don't have words to describe what I'm thinking right now," she said in an off-the-court interview. "I know this feeling when you hold the trophy. I would like to win my second title." The Saturday ladies' final will pit Kvitova against the 20-year-old Bouchard.

Kvitova, now 24, has always been a hit-or-miss player. She still lacks a certain subtlety in baseline rallies; she rarely adjusts her big backswing to compensate for the shots coming back at her. She had by far the bigger weapons against Safarova. Question was, could this loose cannon keep the ball in the court?

Aesthetically, it was a different kind of match. In fact, it was the first all-lefty women's Grand Slam semifinal in 22 years, going back to 1992, when Monica Seles beat Martina Navratilova here.

Kvitova broke Safarova to open the match, but couldn't sustain it. The tiebreaker was 6-all when Kvitova asserted herself, punishing a weak second serve, then hitting a backpedaling forehand cross-court winner that brought on a frightful shriek.

The No. 23-seeded Safarova came close, but she drifted away in the second set. At 27, she was the oldest of the semifinalists by three years and the least decorated. This was her best Grand Slam effort ever -- she beat No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova and No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova on her way to the semifinals. It was seven years ago that she reached her only other major quarterfinal, at the Australian Open.

Kvitova, meanwhile, is a sporty 25-5 on the grass at the All England Club -- by far her best record in a Grand Slam.

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