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Wimbledon 2011: Petra Kvitova greets victory with typical modesty
When asked about her meteoric rise to fame, the Skoda-driving Czech is as unassuming as the small town she grew up in
Kevin Mitchell at Wimbledon
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 July 2011 22.59 BST
Petra Kvitova drives a Skoda and her English comes in considered little lumps, with no artifice. The bright new force in the women's game will let her tennis do the talking and her smile embellish the story of a country girl from the Czech Republic.
She is from a small town near the Polish border, Fulnek, which, she is happy to tell us, "is nothing special, 6,000 people, four tennis courts, one football ground and a castle".
Just your run-of-the mill Moravian village, then – but Kvitova is no run-of-the-mill tennis player. The new Wimbledon champion, who played with an irresistible mix of power, subtlety and intelligence to confound the more graceful but fragile Maria Sharapova on Centre Court on Saturday, is special.
She is 21 and getting better faster than anyone in the game. Within moments of her 6-3, 6-4 win over Sharapova – which she brought to a thumping conclusion with her only ace in an hour and 25 minutes of absorbing tennis – bookmakers had made her favourite to retain her title next year. She cannot wait to come back.
If the women's game is in disarray, Kvitova might be the player to restore order. In a fortnight of mayhem that accounted for the early same-day departure of the Williams sisters, the exit of the world No1, Caroline Wozniacki, and finally, the defeat of the favourite, Sharapova, she rose without fuss from the outside courts to the centre of the game, a splendid, unassuming young champion who appears to have no side, but plenty of side-spin. She has come some way since losing to Serena Williams here last year and dates her real advance from the start of this year.
"I started very well, with a win [in Brisbane, followed quickly by Paris indoors and Madrid]. Last year I was here and I was 62 in the world and now I'm eighth and I won Wimbledon. It's so quick. I don't know why."
Kvitova leaves those judgments to others. She plays with an instinctive lust for hitting a yellow ball that defies glib analysis. She gives the impression, probably legitimate, that there is no premeditation in her strokeplay, that it flows from the moment. Nor is she worrying about her place in history. Asked if she thought she might be in the vanguard of a new era, she said, "I'm not thinking about that. I have no idea."
Nor, believe it or not, had she thought much about her considerable change in circumstances. What emotions did she feel on becoming an instant millionaire? "Nothing. I don't know. I don't have an idea."
Indeed, Kvitova will not be bulldozed into stereotypes. Her Skoda is not a battered old banger but a new one that does not need replacing, as she drives the hour's journey to Fulnek from her flat in Prostejov. These are names and spellings at the centre of the tennis universe. The game has turned east.
Kvitova started in Fulnek with no great dream, another turn against preconceptions. "I didn't think I would play professionally but, when I watched some tennis on the TV, it was Wimbledon," she said. "I watched [Andre] Agassi and [Pete] Sampras and of course [Martina] Navratilova."
Kvitova was only a few months old when her compatriot Navratilova won the last of her nine Wimbledon singles titles – and Navratilova was there to watch her win on Saturday.
"My father was my coach until I was 16 or 17 and then I moved to Prostejov," said Kvitova. "Until I was 16 I only played for an hour or an hour and a half after school. I didn't think that I could be a tennis player. Then when I moved to Prostejov I saw who was practising there – people like Tomas Berdych. My parents encouraged me to move, because I didn't have any sparring partners. I played with my two brothers and my parents. That's it."
If the 21-year-old left-hander is reluctant to carry the whole game on her shoulders, she is happy to celebrate good days for the Czechs. There are nine of them in the women's top 100 and the best of them says: "Sometimes I think about this and I think it's about our parents. We had our problems before and it's from the heart and the parents.
"We do not practise in the same club, the Czech girls, but it's good to know we have so many talented players. We are like family."
Happy days in Fulnek.