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Petra Kvitova prevails in titanic struggle with Venus Williams

Petra Kvitova with a backhand
by Kate Battersby
Friday 27 June 2014

The five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams produced a superb third round display against the 2011 title winner Petra Kvitova – to no avail, as the 34-year-old American finally ran out of mental steam. This strength-sapping encounter saw neither player ever allowed to establish meaningful momentum. Williams, seeded 30 this year, was just two points from a straight sets victory but the Czech left-hander eventually came through 5-7, 7-6(2), 7-5 in two hours and 30 minutes.

“This is the best match I have played on grass since I won the title,” agreed Kvitova, who thought carefully before allowing herself to say it. “She’s a huge player, a big champion, and she’s doing a good job of coming back. We all have to respect her. I don’t think I was the better player the whole way through this match. I was very nervous before the start. I knew of course that she’s a five-time champion here and loves to play on the Centre Court as much as I do. I was just a little stronger than her mentally. That’s why I won.”

The meeting that promised so much on paper delivered right from the off. A rejuvenated Venus – who played much better than her sister Serena when the siblings won through to the second round of the doubles on Wednesday evening – again served and moved quite beautifully here. Having fended off break point in the first game of the match, she did not face another one until the match was at its death.

Arguably Venus could claim the better year coming into this match as she has won a title, in Dubai, while Kvitova has none. Moreover, Kvitova played with her right thigh heavily strapped, as a result of the injury which prompted her withdrawal from Eastbourne last week at the quarter-final stage.

In the first set the the Czech made more errors than winners, and it cost her. At 5-5 Venus broke to love, and closed out the set the same way to make it eight points on the bounce. In the second set concentration was etched on the younger woman’s face as the two players went toe-to-toe. Kvitova’s game can be unpredictable, but as that second set reached the tie-break an acutely-angled crosscourt forehand saw her establish impetus, and a tired forehand from Venus gave Kvitova four set points. Disastrously the veteran – giving 10 years to her opponent – double-faulted.

In the decider neither gave any ground and the outcome was anyone’s guess until Venus wilted at 4-5. She sent a backhand long to give two match points, and put Kvitova’s return in the net. The Czech will face Peng Shuai next Monday for a place in the last eight.

“She played well at every single moment,” said Williams. “I gave it my all. Sometimes it’s not enough. It’s a shame there had to be a loser and more of a shame that it had to be me. This was a great match for me. But the battle is always more enjoyable when you win. I’m still in the doubles. That’s what is on my mind now.

“This year has been great for me. People have been trying to retire me since I was 25.

But I’m finding my way back on my feet, and I’m proud of myself for what I’m achieving on the court. I want to win more Slams. Everybody does. No one gives it to you. They snatch it away, and say ‘mine’. That’s what I have to do – snatch it, say ‘mine’, too. Growl if need be.”

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