Friday, July 04, 2014

2014 WIMBLEDON: Women's Final Preview

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [13] vs Petra Kvitova (CZE) [6]
The players for the 2014 Wimbledon women's final are set. 20-year-old Canadian Genie Bouchard will face 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 24-year-old Czech lefty. Last year I incorrectly predicted that Sabine Lisicki would defeat Marion Bartoli.  This year I correctly predicted 1 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals, 2 of 2 men's semifinals, and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. Below is my preview and prediction post for the women's final.

WHAT HAPPENED: Women's Semifinal Review
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [13] dSimona Halep (ROU) [3] 7-6(5) 6-2. Bouchard becomes the first Canadian woman to reach a major final by being incredibly aggressive on her return position, refusing to receive serve behind the baseline. At one point during the tournament her contact point on service return was 100% within the court. This brought her great success against the talented Halep who got up an early break but then immediately relinquished it. When they got to the tiebreak, Halep was leading 3-2 when play was delayed for 5 minutes to deal with an injured fan in the stands. Halep won the next point to take a 4-2 lead but then only won one other point to lose the breaker and the set. Then the fourth set was just a disaster for people like myself who expected the Romanian to rally, as Bouchard broke at will, running up a 5-2 double break lead and after some small wobbles on match point, the young Canadian was able to serve it out.

Petra Kvitova (CZE) [6] d. Lucie Safarova (CZE) [23] 7-6(6) 6-1The two semifinals were eerily similar, with one break for each player in the first set followed by a nail-biter of a tiebreak. This was an excellent result for Safarova who had barely ever managed to hold pace with her countrywoman. She was able to reach 6-all in the tiebreak and simply played a bad point that allowed Kvitova to gain  a set point on her serve, which she won with a patented 1-2 play (serve out wide and then hit the return for a winner in to the open court). After that she opened her shoulders and just overpowered Safarova in the next set. Bizarrely, 3 of the 6 opponents that Kvitova beat to reach her 2nd Wimbledon final were fellow Czech players. I wonder if this will impact how they will view her on the Czech Fed Cup team?

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Women's Final Preview
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [13] vs Petra Kvitova (CZE) [6]. The two have played once before, with Kvitova winning on the home turf of her opponent on the hard courts of Montreal last summer, 6-3 6-2 in 86 minutes. The match was much closer than the score indicates, with long points and multiple deuce games. This is good news for Bouchard because she has made a quantum leap since then, reaching 3 consecutive major semifinals, showing a resolve and consistency that her opponent here has really only shown once (in her 6-3 6-4 demolition of Maria Sharapova in 2011, where I was one of the rare people who predicted that result in advance.) That being said, Bouchard is 20-years-old and playing in her first major final. Few players win their first appearance in a major final, and there have been a lot of first time finalists in the last year: Halep lost in Paris, Dominika Cibulkova lost in Melbourne, Sabine Lisicki certainly did not do it in last year's Wimbledon final. Will Bouchard break this string? I think it is very possible that she will. It is fair to note here that Kvitova did do it in her first final, and it is clear that grass is her best surface at this point.

The match-up is interesting. Kvitova's lefty serving and go for broke power versus Bouchard's naked aggression and unbridled hungry, coupled with calmness under pressure. Bouchard has had her path to the final made much easier by Serena Williams upset by Alize Cornet and Angelique Kerbers clutch win over Sharapova. But there's no pressure like the pressure in a major final and Kvitova is more familiar with these moments. In fact, she was two points away from losing her 3rd round match against 5-time champion Venus Williams and came through that test with flying colors. Somehow I think she will repeat this feat tomorrow and win her 2nd major title. MadProfessah's pick: Kvitova.

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