Safarova and Kvitova lead Czech assault

London: Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova led the Czech charge on Tuesday into the last four of Wimbledon, ensuring their nation a presence in the women`s final on Saturday.

Safarova beat Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-3 6-1 to become the first woman through to the semi-finals.

And, in gathering gloom on Centre Court, 2011 champion Petra Kvitova proved too strong for 43rd-ranked compatriot Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, winning 6-1 7-5.

It is the furthest Safarova, 27, has advanced in 37 grand slam appearances.

"I played really well and wanted to get through this match and I am so happy," the 23rd seed told reporters.

"I was serving well and being aggressive and taking her time away and that was the key to the victory." 

Safarova will have to up the aggression to overcome 24-year-old sixth seed Kvitova who has played her compatriot five times on the tour, winning every match.

Kvitova`s last victory over Safarova was a tight three-setter at a Wimbledon warm-up tournament last month.

"It`s going to be my third match against a Czech girl during Wimbledon which is unusual," said the former winner. 

"We played last time in Eastbourne. It was a big fight until the end. I`m expecting a tough battle again."

Kvitova threatened to blow away Zahlavova Strycova who was clearly struggling to find her feet and her composure on a Centre Court still buzzing with excitement after Rafael Nadal`s shock defeat by Nick Kyrgios.

Using her powerful serve to great effect Kvitova sped through the first set, converting her second set point with a heavy return that Zahlavova Strycova sent long.

Zahlavova Strycova, who knocked out second seed Li Na and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the quarter-finals, fought hard in the second set, countering with some solid groundstrokes.

She even served for the set at 5-4 but could not neutralise her opponent`s power.

The sixth seed broke back and won the next two games, clinching victory with a forehand winner down the line. 

It was the first time since the start of the professional era in 1968 that three Czech women had reached the quarter-finals of a grand slam tournament.

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