Wimbeldon, England One might reasonably have expected Petra Kvitova, not Maria Sharapova, to be betrayed by nerves in the Wimbledon final.
This was, after all, Kvitova’s first Grand Slam championship match, while Sharapova already owned three major titles, including one from the All England Club. So Kvitova decided to pretend she was heading out on Centre Court to play in the fourth round.
That mind-set worked. So, too, did nearly everything Kvitova tried once play began, particularly her big, flat left-handed groundstrokes that pushed Sharapova back on her heels. In a surprisingly lopsided final, Kvitova beat the higher-seeded, yet shakier, Sharapova, 6-3, 6-4, Saturday to win Wimbledon for her first Grand Slam trophy.
“I was surprised how I was feeling on the court,” Kvitova said, “because I was focused only on the point and on the game and not on the final.”
If there were those who wondered how the eighth-seeded Kvitova would handle the setting and the pressure, her coach did not.
Indeed, David Kotyza had an inkling his new pupil possessed the right stuff to win titles shortly after they began working together about 2 1/2 years ago. That’s because he was wowed by the several pages of handwritten answers Kvitova supplied for a questionnaire he gave her back then — and has kept to this day.
“I was really surprised about how she thinks about tennis, how clever she is. She told me her advantages, disadvantages, what she has to improve,” Kotyza said, then pointed a finger to his temple and added: “Her brain is a big advantage for this game.”
When she was a kid growing up in Fulnek, Czech Republic — population: 6,000 — and practicing an hour or so after school each day, Kvitova didn’t count on becoming a professional tennis player. She simply wasn’t that good, yet. Clearly, she’s a quick study.
Before Wimbledon in 2010, Kvitova’s career record on grass was 0-4. She is 16-2 on the slick surface since, including a run to the semifinals here last year before losing to Serena Williams.
At 21, Kvitova is the youngest Wimbledon champion since — you guessed it — Sharapova was 17 in 2004. Kvitova is also the first Czech to win the tournament since Jana Novotna in 1998.
Plus, Kvitova is only the third left-handed woman to win the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. The last was Martina Navratilova, who won her ninth Wimbledon title in 1990, a few months after Kvitova was born.
“I’m thrilled for her. She played brave tennis, and she deserved to win. She was by far the better player,” said Navratilova, who was born in Czechoslovakia and sat near Novotna in the Royal Box on Saturday. “I don’t think this is the only time she’ll win here. It’s very exciting. A new star.”