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Kvitova power game leaves experts reaching for superlatives

Petra Kvitova celebrates during the Ladies' Singles Final
by Kate Battersby
Saturday 5 July 2014

Those washing powder advertisements are right about egg. It really is very difficult to remove, particularly when it’s all over your face.

Why, just 24 hours ago in an article on this very website, some correspondent or other made reference to the only match to take place before this Wimbledon between Petra Kvitova and Eugenie Bouchard, in Toronto last year, which the Czech won 3 and 2. “Hands up,” wrote the oh-so-clever correspondent, “those forecasting an exact repeat on Saturday. Anyone?”

Of course, the correspondent in question might attempt to claim that her intended meaning was misunderstood – that far from implying this final would be a close contest, she alone had unique foresight that the 2011 champion would pulverise Bouchard. But it’s probably best she doesn’t try that one. And there is some comfort in the fact that not too many others predicted the 2014 final unfolding as it did.

Sure, plenty thought it had the potential for a great contest if the unpredictable Czech brought her A-game to the final. But few realised what her A-game would actually constitute in the case of the six-foot lefty.

“That is one of the most awesome displays of shot-making,” said three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe. “She dictated virtually every point. I’m not sure any Plan B would have mattered for Bouchard. On her game, Kvitova makes life absolutely miserable for you because she makes you feel like you cannot do anything.”

Virginia Wade, the 1977 champion, described Kvitova’s play as “an absolute blinder... phenomenal”, while the 1999 Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport saw it as “a thing of beauty”. Certainly Bouchard had no answer. So much of the build-up to the final was all about the Canadian, you could be forgiven for thinking she would arrive on the Centre Court alone, so little was made of her opponent. To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Huge.”

So now Petra Kvitova has twice lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish, and at 24 is still the only Wimbledon champion born in the 1990s. When she won in 2011, great things were forecast for her, but she found it difficult to cope with the expectation. Never one to be entranced by fame, she shrank from its gaze. It is to be hoped that this second victory, achieved with more experience under her belt, will free her to reach the full potential of her game.

“She is much better prepared this time, much more willing to embrace the challenge and win numerous majors,” says McEnroe. “I thought she would win five or six Wimbledons after seeing her win the first. It is hard to believe she won’t win more majors, including this tournament, after what we saw in this final. She’s a class act. The way she played I simply can’t imagine her not winning this again.”

Virginia Wade agreed: “Even half the form she showed in this final would have won her a ton more tournaments. She’s so much trimmer and fitter and faster now than in 2011. She’s worked on her confidence. Her English is much better. She holds her head up high.”

Having witnessed her dazzling display, it is extraordinary to recall that Kvitova has had merely a solid season before this, with no titles to her name. She was obliged to withdraw from the warm-up tournament at Eastbourne with a thigh problem sufficiently troubling that it was strapped throughout the Wimbledon Fortnight; but her progress through the draw was largely serene. She lost just one set, in the match of the tournament – her third round defeat of the five-time champion Venus Williams.

Getting through that tussle was the springboard to her ultimate victory. Now, in turn, she has the chance to use her title win as a launch pad to still greater things. She has climbed back up to No.4 in the world, and was as high as No.2 after her 2011 title. But the top spot is less important to her than winning Slams – or at least, winning this one, this time.

“I was pretty close to No.1,” smiled the new champion, as she looked back on 2011. “Of course the No.1 means a lot to everyone. It’s nice to be No.1. I will try everything I can to get there. But I feel that having this Grand Slam, especially Wimbledon, is something more special.

“I’m not really thinking about winning more titles here. Of course I will do my best. I will still work hard. I hope it’s not the end. But I’m just glad I’m sitting here as Wimbledon champion.”

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