Sunday, July 6, 2014


Absolute unadulterated perfection.

It is not often that one person comes along to make a mark and mark her day; Afar along the way, never astray aloft the loftiest of spheres. Sitting perched there, the clouds of insecurity dissipating with a mind suddenly so clear and the green shade bestrode by such flair.

Never before did such a combination of power and timing befall one. Power, yes, timing, maybe, but the two together, no. But this is Petra Kvitova we're talking of here. One so unique, indeed. Petra by name and the game to shoot straight to fame. A Queen fit for the jungle, but also a lady of the day.

She wasn't always a Queen, though. More like a Princess, one that would offer up delightful servings of mesmerising stroke-play one day, and the next, an error strewn monstrosity of a performance. A Princess searching for power, but unable to keep a grasp on it for any significant length of time. There was that first Wimbledon title in 2011. A talent had risen, or so it had seemed. There one moment, and quick as a flash, gone the next.

It wasn't that she didn't possess the most glorious of shots; She did. Really, though, it was the lack of consistency that was most puzzling. With a glaring lack of self-belief for one seemingly destined for greatness, maybe, like a rabbit caught in the headlights, she didn't know which way to turn. Not really comprehending what being a professional entailed, her fitness regime was of such low intensity that it was the equivalent of having a heart rate of "my career is going nowhere".

Of late, there is a new dedication to fitness and a sports psychologist has been employed. Which has led to increased power, both on a physical and mental level. What a difference six months makes.

They say Britain has never been conquered. Not so. Yesterday, this 6ft Amazonian Queen from Czechoslovakia rode into town and bequeathed many a grateful new disciple with a flawless display of power Tennis to marvel at. And not only did she take possession of Britain, Kvitova, just for good measure, grabbed hold of the colonies and gave them a good shake, too.

Canada's Eugenie Bouchard may not have appreciated this invasion, not that she had the slightest say in proceedings.

Such was Kvitova's Perfection. The 6-3, 6-0 kind of Perfection.

It's not just that she hit with her usual fearsome power, it also came with the detonation of immaculate precision. Such is the bravery of youth that Bouchard planted herself on the baseline and steadfastly refused to move. Normally this would be fine, but with Kvitova landing balls within inches of the baseline, Bouchard simply had no time to respond. Bouchard, it turned out, was a girl playing on a woman's court; Petra Kvitova's court.

Kvitova has always enjoyed the use of a left-handers swinging serve, and a forehand that has often threatened to break the speed of sound. On this stunning day, soon to appear was the ultimate weapon for someone with all the shots; A mind made of steel. Cold, hard, ruthless steel that refused to bend.

This was the one area Bouchard was supposedly superior in and it turns out that she was a minor in that regard, too. The Canadian has made much of her desire to succeed in the now. Not to be content with a Final's appearance as a learning tool for the future. Fair enough. After all, she has now reached the semi-finals of two grand slams and a Wimbledon Final all in the space of six months.

All this hard minded talk, such noble notions. Of course, she had that nobility knocked out of her by a tougher opponent. Which goes to show, have the mental toughness but not the ability, or vice versa and it all amounts to zip when up against a foe that possesses more of both.

In this case she was up against a player that offered a blast from the past that fast circumnavigated its way around all the oddities of one not yet worldly, and travelled forward in time to appear on the grandest stage of them all; Saturday July 5th on Centre Court of Wimbledon. The past and the present collided into a kaleidoscopic montage of exhilarating shot-making fare.

Bouchard's only hope was for some thunderous elements to prevail and unsettle Kvitova with a stoppage in play.

But even with inclement weather nearby, the Czech simply indulged in a race to see who could cause the most destruction first: Like with everything else on this day, Kvitova won.


Absolute unadulterated perfection.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Angelique Kerber is a giant killer in mind, and with shots that appear to go pop. How does a woman with the mildest of serves terminate the title hopes of one Maria Sharapova? You know, the one with the sizzling serve, not to mention barnstorming ground-strokes, that could issue many a storm warning and keep her foe holed up for weeks. The only storm warning Kerber's serve should or could send out is to itself to cover up if it does conjure up the spirit to wander onto centre court.

The German pulls off a three set victory, winning 6-4 in the third, armed with nothing more than a slug gun, while her Russian foe is sitting on her Countries entire nuclear arsenal, but unfortunately nobody gave her the instruction manual on how to operate it.

This was like David ( 5ft8") versus Goliath (6ft2"), except this time it was Davina and Davina turned out to be divine and divine was Angelique who became a quarterfinalist.

Once again, how did she win? It can only be mind. They say ninety-five percent of top level sport is those top few inches. In Kerber we now have irrefutable proof. This Woman has no right to win. At least not in this encounter. Yes, she is ranked number seven in the World - And that in itself is remarkable - but this is a bent so undermanned that you keep expecting her to send out an SOS at any given moment.

Her serve has the velocity of a mid summers breeze - And that's just her first serve. Neither does it have the acuteness of a Petra Kvitova. So, no wide serve from the Ad side of the court and no other discernible threats . . . And she wins. Remarkable. Without an improved serve it is undeniable that she will not threaten the number one ranking. What this nugget of timeless effort will do, with that sturdy mind, is jump straight back up every time she is knocked down and continue pestering the hell out of some very exasperated foes.

Which is effectively what she did to Sharapova. It's not like the fifth seed didn't offer any resistance. To the contrary, Sharapova regularly manipulated Kerber around the wearing greenery of centre court, moving her from side to side, wrong footing her with inside out forehands and the like. But Kerber scrapped and fought and clawed and scratched, whatever it took. Many a time she appeared on the ropes and dazed in anticipation of that final knockout punch. Yet, one more shot kept coming back and inevitably Sharapova would generate errors at the costliest of times.

That is the thing with Kerber though, she is very definitely the real deal. What you see is what you get. This is no fraudulent fraulein. Win or lose, you know her all has been given. She'll run, she'll scamper and she'll put a dampener on the hope of a good sprinkling of most competitors.

Especially with that mind. Yes, that mind. This is a Lady that should avoid going through airport security anytime soon for fear of attracting any untoward attention. Such is the state of her mind, it appears to be fitted out in the steeliest of impregnable fortitude. She doesn't have the angles to her strokes that Sharapova has. Put simply, she doesn't have Sharapova's talent. What she does have is the capacity to play to her optimum for three sets. She did. With nerves of steel. The Russian did not. At 5-4 up in the third and attempting to break serve to close out the encounter, she had numerous match points. She wasted some of those opportunities, but kept fighting. It took awhile, but finally she closed it out. Fortunately she did, for there is only so long the lesser talent can hold on for.

With Serena Williams already knocked out, Sharapova was many people's favourite to take title. Not anymore. If Kerber is to cause more upsets, she will need to go through Bouchard first, then Halep or Sabine Lisicki and possibly Kvitova. That's a lot of power to contend with.

Sharapova will, of course, go home titleless again. Ten years since she won her solitary Wimbledon title, there is still time to garner another as she is only twenty-seven. The young guns are barking, though. Before long the likes of Kvitova, Bouchard, Halep, Stephens and co will be biting. Best to take her shot soon, because when that bite does come, she may never recover.

And even if they don't, there is always Angelique Kerber to put paid to the best laid plans.