The Wimbledon 2014 Ladies’ Singles Final is a tough one to call. On one side of the net, there’s a former champion (still only 24) oozing with talent, Petra Kvitova. She’s been here and triumphed, taking out Maria Sharapova in the 2011 final to win the title. She’s the best female Czech player since Jana Novotna and leads a group of outstanding female Czech players, the best since the days of Martina Navratilova, Hana Mandlikova and Helena Sukova. On the other side of the court is an even younger rising star looking to be her country’s first Major tennis champion, Eugenie Bouchard. With Milos Raonic falling to Roger Federer in the Gentlemen’s Semifinals, the Great White North will focus their attention on favorite daughter Genie come Saturday. I loved how some of the staff at Tennis Canada broke into a rendition of “O Canada” upon Bouchard’s win over Simona Halep in the semis.
KEYS TO VICTORY: EUGENIE BOUCHARD
1. Don’t be overwhelmed by the occasion. Genie sounds supremely composed in interviews. She carries herself with an assuredness that belies her age. But this is the Wimbledon final. Her first Major final. This will be the greatest pressure of her tennis career. In last year’s championship, Sabine Lisicki walked onto the court with tons of momentum from previous matches only to fall apart under the weight of that pressure. Before any shots or strategy can be successfully employed, Genie must first successfully deal with the moment.
2. Make Kvitova move. Genie takes the ball early, on the rise and often inside the baseline. This cuts down on reaction time for her opponent. She doesn’t have to overpower the ball on every shot, just move Petra around and don’t let her set her feet and tee off on ground strokes. If it’s a hot and humid day, making Petra move will benefit Bouchard as Kvitova sometimes wilts in tough conditions.
3. Hold serve and look for a chance to break. Petra has one of the best serves on the women’s tour. It’s a lefty serve terrific on all surfaces but especially lethal on grass. Genie cannot afford to repeatedly drop her own serve. Kvitova has little lapses and will give her a chance or two to break. Genie must seize those chances and not give them back by losing her own service games.
KEYS TO VICTORY: PETRA KVITOVA
1. Get off to a good start. This is important for two reasons. First, as she can run hot and cold sometimes, even within a match, winning the first set will give her a cushion in case she has a lapse at some point. She can still come back in the third set. But more importantly, since she has the experience edge in dealing with the pressure of a Major final, it would be an advantage if she can put Genie behind the eight ball immediately in her first Major final. Petra would test the limit, if there is one, of Genie’s strong will and determination. A strong start by Kvitova might force Bouchard to take more chances and make more mistakes.
2. Play Big Babe tennis. Bouchard has an aggressive power game, but few hit the ball like Petra. When she’s striking the ball cleanly…wow, you really need to see one of her matches live to appreciate the sound it makes coming off her racquet. She’s the bigger, stronger player. Bouchard plays aggressive tennis. Petra plays, as Mary Carillo calls it, Big Babe tennis. Genie wants to plant herself inside the baseline. If Kvitova is hitting the ball well and deep, it will force Bouchard to back up. If Bouchard backs up, she won’t be able to win unless Petra makes a bunch of unforced errors.
3. Be Petra Kvitova. It sounds simple, but it’s not. Sometimes it seems the real Petra Kvitova doesn’t show up. The supremely gifted Kvitova is a problem for anybody if she just plays her game well. When she beat Sharapova in the 2011 final, it was an example of what she’s capable of when she shows up. She better show up Saturday or Canada will have it’s first Major winner.
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