Petra Kvitova became the first player to make the Wimbledon quarter-finals yesterday with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win over Carla Suarez Navarro.
After the high-profile departures of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova in the first week, Kvitova sneaked through on Court Three before the main fourth-round action started on the show courts.
It was not all plain sailing for the 2011 champion, who has yet to rediscover the consistency that took her to world No. 2 20 months ago.
“I was pretty nervous today ... I didn’t play my best, especially in the first set, but it’s important to win the last point which was what I did,” Kvitova told a news conference.
Suarez Navarro, the last Spanish woman in the draw, harried her from the baseline, moving fast, returning early and chasing down the Czech’s groundstrokes.
Eighth seed Kvitova, 23, broke the Spaniard’s serve and should have finished off the first set in the 12th game, but nervy shots allowed Suarez Navarro to break back, using her rare and elegant single-handed backhand to stinging effect.
With big names like the injured Victoria Azarenka and former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki gone, Kvitova was clearly feeling the weight of expectation.
“Everybody is talking about that I’m the highest seeded player in my half, I’m supposed to be already in the final. It’s not really easy to hear that,” she said.
However, the statuesque Czech’s power eventually proved too much for her more diminutive opponent and she pressured Suarez Navarro into slapping a forehand into the net to take the set 7-5 in the tiebreak.
This seemed to energize Kvitova and she bowled through the second set in 34 minutes, using her big serve, long reach and strength to quell her opponent.
Kvitova will play 20th seed Kirsten Flipkens in the quarter-finals today after the Belgian sealed her first Grand Slam quarter-final berth with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 victory against Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta.
Li Na narrowly missed out on handing Italian Roberta Vinci the dreaded double bagel as the Chinese sixth seed romped into the quarter-finals with a 6-2, 6-0 victory.
The 2011 French Open champion served for the first set at 5-0 up, but was broken by the doubles specialist, who raised loud cheers on Court Three as she finally won a game.
Vinci, seeded 11th, held her next service game, but from then on Li was unstoppable as she won the next seven games to reach the last eight.
In the men’s singles David Ferrer wore down Croatia’s Ivan Dodig with his high-energy scrambling to move into the quarter-finals with a 6-7 (3/7) 7-6 (8/6) 6-1, 6-1 win.
The fourth seed arrived 10 minutes late on Court Two and was slow to impose himself on the match, losing the first set in a tiebreak before winning the second the same way.
Dodig could not maintain his consistency as the match wore on and his serve faltered to allow Ferrer to turn the screw.
After failing to win a point on the Dodig serve for four successive games in the second set, Ferrer broke three times in the third and twice in the fourth to wrap it up.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and China’s Peng Shuai beat Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand and Daria Jurak of Croatia 6-4, 6-4 to reach the last 16 of the women’s doubles. The No. 8 seeds will face Jelena Jankovic and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni for a place in the semi-finals after the Serbian-Croatian duo beat No. 4 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-2.
Additional reporting by staff writer