She had overcome those nerves by the time she walked out again on Tuesday to face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, only to find a much more difficult opponent in a four-time Wimbledon winner who knows all about performing well on tennis’ biggest stage.
Kvitova played one of her best matches of the tournament and still lost, overpowered 6-3, 7-5 by the hard-serving Williams, who reached her eighth Wimbledon semifinal.
“I think it was great match from both of us, and I think that she just served much better than me,” Kvitova said. “I think there were some really important points that I could play better. I think that was the difference.”
Kvitova has struggled following her first Grand Slam title at the All England Club last year, and has yet to reach a final in 2012. So coming in to Wimbledon as the woman to beat was a bit daunting. “For me it was difficult [in the] first round when I went to Centre Court,” Kvitova said. “That was tough for me to be strong mentally because I played badly before, so I didn’t feel much better. Then I think after the first round was good, and I didn’t thinking about that I’m defending champion. I just played every match ... and I was more relaxed.”
It’s just that Williams was simply better.
The 13-time Grand Slam winner hit 13 aces -- including three in the last game -- to end Kvitova’s 11-match winning streak at Wimbledon. Her last loss here also came against the American, in the 2010 semifinals.
Williams seized control by breaking Kvitova for 4-2 in the first set and then never gave her opponent a chance to get back in the match. She saved a set point when trailing 5-4 in the second with a hard serve down the middle that Kvitova returned into the net. That was the only break point the defending champion earned, as Williams won 86 percent of the points on her first serve.
“I think that’s why she’s the great champion, because she knows what she needs to play in the important points,” Kvitova said. “It’s really tough to beat her.”
Williams knows what’s it like to be the player everyone is trying to beat at the All England Club. She has successfully defended the title twice - in 2003 and 2010 - before losing it the next year.
Williams will next play Victoria Azarenka, who beat unseeded Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-3, 7-6 (4) Saturday, despite failing twice to serve out the match.
In a match that was moved from Court 1 to the roof-covered Centre Court because of a series of rain delays, Azarenka was broken for the first time when leading 5-4 in the second set. She broke right back but then wasted a second opportunity to serve it out, before converting her second match point in the tiebreaker when Paszek sent a backhand long.
The other semifinal will feature Angelique Kerber against third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska. Kerber beat fellow German Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-7 (7), 7-5 despite wasting three match points in the second set, while Radwanska reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by outlasting Maria Kirilenko 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in a rain-affected match that saw several suspensions and was moved onto Centre Court from Court 1 for the last four games.