Williams Finds Her Game Against Wimbledon Defending Champion

Williams Finds Her Game Against Wimbledon Defending Champion
Serena Williams reacts after defeating Petra Kvitova on day eight of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships in London. Photographer: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It took the defending champion to help Serena Williams find her game at Wimbledon.

Williams, the four-time title holder, beat Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5 in her best match of the tournament and reached the semifinals.

“You can’t play a defending Wimbledon champion or Grand Slam champion and not elevate your game,” the 30-year-old American said in a news conference after playing her first match under the Centre Court roof. “I had to weed out the riffraff and just get serious.”

Williams produced 27 winners by aggressively stepping in to take the ball early, hit 13 aces and never had her serve broken. Not over-hitting returns as she had in previous rounds, Williams broke down the left-hander’s serve with well-placed backhand returns deep into the corner. Known mostly for her power, Williams used a touch forehand drop shot to hold for 5-2 in the first set. She took the match with a service winner.

“That’s why she’s the great champion, because she knows what she needs to play in the important points,” Kvitova, 22, told reporters after losing her crown.

In men’s quarterfinal action today at Wimbledon, six-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland plays Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny and Spain’s David Ferrer faces Andy Murray, the No. 4 seed from Britain. Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Germany’s Florian Mayer, while France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga meets another German, Philipp Kohlschreiber.

At 5-4 down in the second set, Williams saved a set point with a service winner and held serve by drilling a forehand into her opponent at the net. Williams broke serve in the next game and then produced three aces in her final service game.

“I didn’t play badly, she just served very well,” Kvitova said.

French Open

Five weeks ago in Paris, Williams was knocked out in the opening round of the French Open by 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano, the first time in her career Williams had failed to win her opening match at a major. Williams had been leading by a set and 5-1 in the tiebreaker when the French player regained the initiative and went on to win the match despite suffering from cramps in the final games.

After struggling through three-set matches in her two previous rounds at Wimbledon, a chat with her father, Richard, sister and five-time champion Venus and coach Patrick Mouratoglou gave Williams “calmness of mind,” she said.

“All three of those got me really motivated to do better and be the player that I know I can be,” said Williams, who won the last of her 13 major singles titles two years ago at Wimbledon before missing almost a whole year with injuries and surgery for blood clots.

Williams will face the second seed, Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, in the semifinals. Williams cast herself in the role of underdog against the Belarussian.

‘Really Relaxed’

“She’s had a better year than I have,” Williams told reporters. “She’s been so successful already, winning a Grand Slam. Going against a player like that, I feel like she almost has an advantage. That makes me really relaxed and I can just kind of hit.”

No woman older than 30 has won a major singles title since Martina Navratilova took her ninth and final Wimbledon championship in 1990.

“I still have hopefully two more matches to play and win,” Williams said. “That’s my goal.”

Although Williams turned pro at the age of 14, she said her desire to win Grand Slam titles hasn’t changed.

“I hate losing,” she said. “If I lose, I don’t keep the trophy. So semifinal, it’s great in a way, but at the end of the day if you’re not first, you’re last.”