Wimbledon: Flipkens edges past 2011 champ Kvitova

Kirsten Flipkens celebrates after defeating Petra Kvitova. Picture: Reuters
Kirsten Flipkens celebrates after defeating Petra Kvitova. Picture: Reuters
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IF PETRA Kvitova ever acquires the mental fortitude to match her physical prowess, she will add a string of Grand Slam victories to her Wimbledon title of 2011.

Until she does, she will remain vulnerable to results such as this quarter-final, a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6 defeat by Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.

If Jessica Ennis and Katherine Grainger ever played on these courts, the match-up would look something like this. Both women are superb athletes, of course, but when it came to sheer muscle power, the heptathlete would have to concede second best to the Scottish rower.

Flipkens, shorter than Kvitova by a good six or seven inches, was the equivalent of Ennis: explosive, more agile, but unable to match the sheer strength of her opponent. Kvitova, by contrast, had the superior power, but lacked the agile touch of the No 20 seed.

The problem for the Czech was that her superior power was not always matched by accuracy. At times her bludgeoning serve would be unstoppable: at others it was woefully wide.

As long as that pattern continued, it was hard to tell who would emerge as the victor. The No 8 seed has the better all-round game when at her best; but Flipkens is a real fighter. She has had to be merely to get back on tour, never mind to reach the latter stages of a major.

A decade on from winning Junior Wimbledon, Flipkens is enjoying the best form of her career. This was her first Grand Slam quarter-final as a senior player, and the world ranking of 20 with which she entered the tournament is her highest to date.

Now 27, she has always been a talented player – she won the girls’ US Open in 2003 as well as the same title here – but the catalyst for her more recent improvement came in the first half of last year when she had to battle against a series of injuries. The worst ailment was the deep-vein thrombosis discovered in April of that year, which forced her off tour for two months and resulted in her ranking dropping to No 262.

The Belgian got off to a promising start against the 2011 champion, producing some excellent returns. But Kvitova was just as adept at that department of the game, and broke Flipkens to take a 3-2 lead.

Flipkens broke back immediately, but Kvitova retaliated to make it three breaks in a row. From 4-3 up the Czech player had an easy hold, and although she struggled with her serve when trying to clinch the set, she saved four break points and eventually prevailed.

Flipkens was not disheartened by the loss, and took a commanding lead in the second set as Kvitova’s concentration levels dropped. At 2-5 down and ready to serve to stay in the set, Kvitova needed brief medical attention on court after complaining of feeling unwell. She held well, but Flipkens was not thrown by the short disruption and levelled the set score in the next game.

The momentum of the match had swung back in the Belgian’s favour, but she had to cope with serving second in the deciding set. That could have given Kvitova the edge, as she held her nerve and with it her serve for her first four service games. But so did Flipkens – and then at 4-4 Kvitova cracked.

Given the chance to pull off the biggest win of her career, Flipkens did not falter, and clinched the win with an ace. Through to a semi-final against Marion Bartoli, she can go a round further if she plays with this impressive combination of determination and skill.

“It’s amazing,” said Flipkens, “more than a dream come true to be in the semi-finals of a grand slam, it’s ridiculous. Last year I did not even get into the qualifying at Wimbledon. I was 260th in the world and today I am in the semi-finals of Wimbledon. It cannot be better.

“I am so happy. You can’t imagine.”