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Kvitova is learning to live with the pressure

PETRA KVITOVA, swathed in more bandages than punters at a Rab C Nesbitt tribute night, strode off Centre Court last night as a very special woman.

Petra Kvitova en route to victory over Lucie Safarova yesterday. Picture: Getty Images
Petra Kvitova en route to victory over Lucie Safarova yesterday. Picture: Getty Images

The Czech remains relatively anonymous outside the confines of tennis but she is a singular woman. Born on March 8, 1990, the left-hander is the only woman in the world who was born in the nineties and has won a grand slam tournament.

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Wimbledon 2011, since one asks. Her defeat of Maria Sharapova was thought to be the precursor of great triumphs, but her victory yesterday over her countrywoman, Lucie Safarova, 7-6 (6), 6-1, marks only her second grand slam final.

Her recent record has, of course, been underplayed. There were mutterings yesterday that suggested Kvitova had spent years in the desert. She has, instead, taken her career earnings to $12.5m, been a constant in the top 10, and reached the past two quarter-finals of Wimbledon, and semi-finals in Roland Garros and the Australian Open, both in 2012.

But the return to the Wimbledon final - where she will meet Eugenie Bouchard, of Canada, who defeated Simona Halep of Romania - is a sign that there may yet be another grand slam in the player who was the only major winner in the last four.

Kvitova believed her Wimbledon triumph had made her a favourite against most opponents and she struggled with that pressure. "That needs some time to get used to," she said. "That pressure is something that I am living with right now. I don't think it can change. It's part of my life right now, and that's it."

This burden of expectation did not lie heavy upon her yesterday. Kvitova, the world No.6, took her record against Safarova, the world No.23, to played six, won six.

The ease of the victory was such that Kvitova seems fresh for the challenge of tomorrow with the bandage on her right leg a precaution against the strain that forced her to withdraw from Eastbourne.

She will face Bouchard, who defeated Halep 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a match that included a hold-up after a woman collapsed in the stands, the Romanian being treated for an ankle injury and the Canadian complaining that she was not ready for her opponent's serve on a match point.

Kvitova has beaten Bouchard in their only meeting, in Toronto last year. "I find her a very solid and talented player. She really seems confident in her game right now. She's moving very well. She's playing aggressively from the baseline," said Kvitova.

Bouchard's progress was aided by a Halep injury that restricted her serving action, but the 20-year-old is an impressive, strong presence, particularly off her forehand. She is the first Canadian to make a grand slam final.

The former Wimbledon junior champion relishes this chance to make further history. "It's not like a surprise to me," she said of her appearance in a grand slam final. "I expect good results like this. So for me, I was like: 'Okay, good. It's a step in the right direction. I get to play in the final'. I still have another match, so it's not a full celebration yet. "

Eerily confident, with a determination to make a positive out of everything, Bouchard was uncharacteristically careless with match points, taking six to dismiss the wounded Halep.

The first match point was squandered when she failed to make an effort on a Halep serve.

She explained: "When Simona tossed I heard someone scream in the crowd. It had happened a few times already. This time I didn't feel prepared to return. So I put my hand up. The umpire told me he heard it as well but he just didn't see my hand go up. But, you know, it only went up after someone screamed, which was pretty much when she was going to serve.

"I don't know, somewhat of an unfortunate incident. I didn't feel ready to return and I put my hand up. Yeah, I felt like we should have replayed the point, but he said, no, it was her point. I took it as a challenge and tried to keep going."

She was peppered with questions about celebrity, including whether she would like Justin Beiber in the royal box and the obligatory lame inquiry about her friend, Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. For the record, she would like Oprah Winfrey on Centre Court tomorrow, not as an opponent but as a guest.

Instead, she has Kvitova. The opportunity has arrived for Bouchard to join the Czech as a 1990s-born grand slam winner. The Canadian believes her time has come. Kvitova, though, insists history can repeat itself.

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