Cool Kvitova proves a charming champion
Saturday, 2 July 2011
by Kate Battersby
Some human qualities shine through language barriers. Petra Kvitova's English may not yet quite be the equal of her tennis, but no matter - sweetness is her first language. The 21-year-old smiled and laughed her way through her post-victory news conference - shaking her head in shy disbelief at hearing herself introduced as the 2011 Wimbledon champion - and thoroughly charmed all present.
"It's hard to find words," she said. "I still don't know how I feel. It's still an unbelievable feeling. Maybe I'll accept it after... I don't know... some days. I was so happy at the moment when I won. It's strange."
It must indeed be strange, to have your dreams come true. Told a star was born today, and that there will probably be many Grand Slam titles coming her way, the 21-year-old liked the sound of that. "You think?" she grinned, and then agreed: "Yeah, OK."
It was Kvitova's cool demeanour that marked the pathway to her victory. But how was this so, in her debut Grand Slam final, against an opponent of Sharapova's experience? Kvitova didn't quite know. She slept well last night, she reported, and then tried to treat the greatest morning of her career as ordinary match preparation like any other.
"I was like I am before a normal match," she said. But even she conceded to being pleased with how relaxed she was. "I was surprised how I was feeling on court because I was focused only on each point and each game, and not on the final and the medal. Sometimes my serve wasn't so good, so I had to keep mentally good. I knew I had to be the first one to play hard, and I had to make the points. I did that.
"I like the big matches. I believed I could play very good in the final, and I did play that way. It was about the serve, for sure, and the return. I know that she returns very well, but I knew I could return her serve also. I knew she would make some double faults. On the important points I played well. I returned very well.
"Last year here in the semi-final against Serena Williams, I didn't have many chances to win. Serena played so well. I was young and I didn't think that I could beat her. That's what was different this time. Today I felt I could win."
So what was it like, to stand on the brink of the dream? What was it like when she left her chair at the changeover for the last time, knowing that she was serving for the Championship?
"In the game before, I was thinking 'I have to do it now'," she said. "And then I'm doing it. Then when I had 40-love, I was just going for the point, and I believed in myself."
Her belief, and her ability, made Kvitova the first left-hander to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish since Martina Navratilova in 1990. She spoke with Navratilova afterwards, and also with the last Czech ladies' singles champion here, Jana Novotna, both of whom watched her victory from the Royal Box.
"They were so happy," smiled Kvitova, overcome by the idea that her own idols could be moved by her achievements. "I cried after I met them. It meant a lot to me to speak with them after the final."
There it was - that sweetness again.