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Surprise package Kirsten Flipkens knocks out Kvitova

Kirsten Flipkens serves on Centre Court.
by Dan Imhoff
Tuesday 2 July 2013

A new women’s champion will be crowned at Wimbledon this year and with it, a first-time Grand Slam winner after Kirsten Flipkens upset 2011 titlist Petra Kvitova in three sets on Tuesday.

The humble Belgian – who returned to the tour after a spate of injuries, including blood clots last April – felled the Czech No.8 seed 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and afterwards admitted she thought her name was the most surprising of the last four standing.

She was the first Belgian to reach the quarter-finals at SW19 since her close friend Kim Clijsters three years ago and has become the first from her country to reach the semi-finals since Justin Henin in 2007.

“Kim was one of the people last year still believing in me. I have to thank her. The people believing in me I could count on one hand,” Flipkens said. “I don’t even have tears. I still have to wake up. It’s more than a dream.”

“Of course [Kim’s support] means so much to me. She's in America, but she's been there for me through the good and through the bad times.”

Clijsters took to Twitter to express her delight moments after Flipkins sealed the upset. “Still drying my eyes,” she tweeted. “So proud of how @FlipperKF handled the big occasion for the first time!”

As a former top junior, Flipkens’ career had never reached the heights of her far more decorated countrywomen, but riding a career-high ranking of No.20 coming into this year’s Championships, the 27-year-old has enjoyed a late-career surge, a rise she attributes largely to bouncing back from the life-threatening blood clots in Thailand last year.

Yeah, maybe I start to know what's important in life. I think winning or losing a tennis match doesn't make a big difference,” she said. “Yeah, I just start to see things in perspective. Yeah, as I said, to understand what's important and what's not.”

It has been an extraordinary comeback, given how far she had fallen this time last year. “I think last year, as everybody know already, I didn't get into the qualifying of Wimbledon. I was ranked 262. Today I'm a semifinalist in a Grand Slam,” Flipkens said.

“I think I've been through a lot of ups and downs throughout my career. I've had so many injuries. Even after the juniors. I was a world champion junior. The year after I had a really bad back injury. All doctors said my career would have been over normally.”

Where nerves often cripple a player in Flipkens’ situation – serving for a place in a first Grand Slam semi-final against a former champion and without the fearlessness of youth on her side – she never faltered.

She reached triple match point with an ace and was only denied by two perfect cross-court backhands from Kvitova. On her third she sealed it, with her seventh ace bringing up the chalk.

The timing could not have been better. “Winning on my mum's birthday makes it even more special,” Flipkens said.

She has already matched Clijsters’ best result at the Championships and if she finds a way to go one step further than Henin’s runner-up showing in 2001 it would make her mother’s birthday celebrations extra special indeed.

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