Tennis

Kvitova powerful in Wimbledon win

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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LONDON

Petra Kvitova, a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic, burst out of the pack of young players trying to establish dominance in the women's game by blasting Maria Sharapova off the Centre Court (6-3, 6-4) to win Wimbledon in sensational style.

Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova

IN THE MOMENT

The best photos from the 2011 Wimbledon ladies' final between Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova.

Kvitova had dared to suggest that she plays tennis like Juan Martin del Potro — well, now we can see why. Hard and flat. The tall Argentine certainly hits the ball that way, and Kvitova offered ample evidence that she can do the same, as she played the best tennis of her life in her first Grand Slam final.

Her huge left-handed serve is clearly her biggest weapon, but she didn't just hit it with great power. She mixed it up, pulling Sharapova out wide in the ad court on occasion, but also often going for that under-used serve into the body, jamming the tall Russian and forcing her into cramped returns.

Kvitova unleashed some blockbluster service returns of her own and seemed nerveless at potentially pivotal moments of the match, such as the moment when Sharapova, having picked up her own spotty game with some big returns, broke back in the second set to level at 3-3.

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Kvitova had even shrugged off the loss of her serve in the opening game of the match, when her nerves were obviously jangling, and immediately broke back. It was a thoroughly impressive performance, and it broke the mold of Czech-born players at Grand Slam level. The Czechs have been notoriously slow starters, and it took great champions like Jaroslav Drobny, Ivan Lendl, Jana Novotna (remember the Centre Court tears when she lost her first final?) and even the great Martina Navratilova a long time to get their acts into gear in Slam finals.

But not this kid. Kvitova surprised herself with the way she handled the biggest moment of her life.

"I was surprised how I was feeling on court because I was so focused on the point and I was very happy about that," she said. "Before the game when I served for the match, I said to myself, 'I have to do it now'; and then it was 40-0, and then the ace, and it was (the) most unbelievable feeling."

The feeling was all too much for her father, who burst into tears.

"My father is still crying," she laughed. "He always cries when I win."

For Kvitova herself, the tears came only after she had been greeted by Navratilova and Novotna in the member's enclosure.

"They said they were so happy, and then I cried," she said.

2011 US Open

2011 US Open

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Recalling her semifinal loss to Serena Williams here last year, Kvitova said, "Against Serena, I didn't think I could beat her. I wasn't ready. Today I knew I could win."

Sharapova had no excuses and did not try to manufacture any.

"She has a very powerful game and was hitting winners from all over the court," Sharapova said. "She goes for her shots, and they're very flat. Today, she created offensive opportunities from tough positions on the court. She turned a defensive shot into an offensive one. Her second serve was pretty big as well. I felt I could have reacted a little bit better on those serves. But she placed the ball really well, too."

In other words, the Russian was outplayed, and she knew it.

But despite the tears that have flowed on numerous occasions behind the scenes during the long months of recovery from shoulder surgery, Sharapova seemed well capable of taking a positive view of her performances over the past few weeks. She  has surprised many by winning a big clay-court title in Rome and then going on to reach the semifinal at Roland Garros.

"It's been a big step forward, especially considering my results here in the last few years haven't been that good," she said. "It's a big step because my game is improving, and it's a big step because it gives me an enormous amount of confidence going forward. I just want to be a better player, and I want to keep working."

Asked whether she was even more determined to win another Grand Slam, Sharapova's eyes narrowed.

"I'm determined no matter what," she said. "You know, I love playing on this stage. As a tennis player, that's the dream, to be playing in the finals stages of Grand Slam and, obviously, hoping to win them. I would have loved to have turned that match around, but it didn't happen today. Maybe it will happen tomorrow."

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