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Maria Sharapova wary of lefty Petra Kvitova

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Having brushed aside the rank and file, the stage is set for Maria Sharapova to reclaim her Wimbledon crown on Saturday but one pesky upstart still threatens to ruin her big day.

Czech Petra Kvitova does not have the glamorous appeal of the ice-cool Russian, her face will probably never adorn billboards and magazine covers and advertising executives will not be clamoring for her signature but she does boast a slicing left-handed serve which is no respecter of reputations.

"It just opens up the court a little bit. It seems that the lefties always have a good slice serve. You could hit it in your sleep. With the serves, I think Kvitova will get on top of the rally a little bit earlier than Maria maybe."

Kvitova is the first Czech to reach the women's final since Jana Novotna in 1998 and only the fourth left-hander to do so in the Open Era.

After dropping just two sets so far she presents a formidable obstacle for fifth seed Sharapova.

However, Sharapova has stormed into the final without dropping a set and despite 13 double-faults in her semi-final win over Sabine Lisicki has looked in her best shape since shoulder surgery threatened her career in 2008.

MONOTONOUS REGULARITY

Relaxed as she appears, though, the Kvitova serve may disturb the extra long nap she was preparing to take on Friday.

"She's got a lot of confidence coming in here, the sense of feeling of having nothing to lose, as it's her first grand slam final," she told reporters. "Also being a lefty, I think that's quite dangerous on grass, because she's been using a lot of her strengths as a lefty and playing really well throughout.

"I think on grass, with the way the spin comes out, it's a big advantage, coming from a lefty. It's a matter of seeing the ball a little bit faster and reacting."

Kvitova, one of a bunch of eastern Europeans to climb the rankings over the past year but who could still stroll through most cities unnoticed, was giving precious little away as she prepared for the biggest day of her career.

Hard as reporters dug for titbits of detail, Kvitova, who belongs to the same tennis club as last year's men's runner-up Tomas Berdych, was reluctant to play ball.

"I didn't speak to him about the final," she said of the Berdych link. "No, nothing special..." was her response to how she will prepare for Saturday. "It was on TV but I don't think I watched it," she shrugged about Sharapova's stunning win over Serena Williams in 2004.

Kvitova is clearly letting her tennis do the talking and so far, apart from a couple of brief lapses, it has looked capable of taking her all the way to the Venus Rosewater Dish.

"It's such a toss-up," Navratilova said. "It basically comes down to who serves better. Once the ball is in play, Sharapova has an edge, but not so big."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman)