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By Erik Gudris

Sara Errani French Open (June 18, 2013) -- When Petra Kvitova cracked a thunderous ace to clinch her first Wimbledon title against Maria Sharapova two years ago, a new tennis superstar was born. Or at least everyone thought as much. The shy left-hander from Fulnek, Czech Republic, needed some time to adjust to not only her well-deserved success, but her newfound fame as well.

When Kvitova later won the WTA Championships, that result pushed her close to the No. 1 ranking - a ranking many thought she would easily attain in 2012.
But that coveted ranking never came. Instead, Kvitova continued to post solid results, but she never dominated the tour as some thought she might. A combination of health issues, Kvitova's own streaky hit-or-miss style of play and dealing with a tour full of players who now knew what to expect when facing her, has left the Czech still a top-10 fixture, but something of a question mark as she prepares to compete at Wimbledon next week.
Kvitova's results in 2013 only add to the confusion surrounding her chances at the All-England Club this coming fortnight. She has a 27-13 record so far this year that includes winning the Dubai title. That looks good until one realizes that 18 of those matches not only went the distance, but were up and down, roller coaster three-set battles, many with Kvitova coming out on the losing end. Those results send a message to the rest of the field that if they can just hang with Kvitova when she's blasting hot winners from all sides, they might -- just might -- catch up to her when she inevitably runs cold in a match.
While Kvitova's big groundstrokes are a key part of her game, it is her big lefty serve that is the cornerstone of it. And the cracks in that once-formidable weapon are starting to show this season. Kvitova of late has changed her service motion, which now has her moving her arms more up during the toss. It is a subtle difference, but perhaps one she has introduced to curb the staggering amount of double faults she's racked up so far.
Of all the players in the current WTA top 10, Kvitova, as of this week, has hit a whopping 200 double faults. Maria Sharapova is not far behind with 193. World No.1 Serena Williams, who likes to go for it on her serve, has committed a somewhat paltry 93 in total. Those double faults from Kvitova make players less afraid of her serve and give them more confidence in their return games.
A straightforward win for Kvitova is becoming a rare thing of late. Although her straight sets 6-4, 6-1 victory against Monica Niculescu today at Eastbourne is certainly a good start for Kvitova on grass, it doesn't suggest that her journey through Wimbledon will be a smooth one during the first week. But perhaps without the pressure and attention of being a defending champion, as she was last year, Kvitova just might relish her darkhorse status this fortnight and use it to her benefit. That is, if she can keep her shots and her serves in between the lines.
It is this mix of uncertainty and great possibility that makes Kvitova perhaps the player to watch at Wimbledon this year, aside from the overwhelming favorite Williams. We know Kvitova is capable of blowing anyone off of the court and certainly able to win another Grand Slam title. But can she find the right mix of power and patience on the grass when, at least so far this season, that valuable combination has not been on her racquet when she's most needed it?
If Kvitova can summon up the perfect mix of potent force and ice-cool calm that she displayed two years ago en route to the Wimbledon title, she just might find herself raising yet another major trophy soon enough.

(Photo Credit: AP)


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