Saturday 24 March 2018

Champion Kvitova aims to take the fame game in stride

Petra Kvitova celebrates her victory over Eugenie Bouchard in the women's singles final at Wimbledon
Petra Kvitova celebrates her victory over Eugenie Bouchard in the women's singles final at Wimbledon
Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic embraces a member of her support team after defeating Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in their women's singles final tennis match

Paul Newman

There is almost a look of horror in Petra Kvitova's face as she remembers what it was like the last time she won the Wimbledon title three years ago.

"Somebody recognised me on the way from Southfields to the grounds," the 24-year-old Czech recalled here on Saturday night in the wake of her final victory over Eugenie Bouchard.

"We came back here to try dresses on for the ball. I remember the walk and was quite surprised when somebody recognised me. I don't really like to be recognised. I'm not really the kind of person who likes all the attention. I'm a more private person."

Kvitova admits that she struggled to cope with the aftermath of her previous Wimbledon triumph. That was evident in her subsequent results. She won only two matches in the course of the 2011 North American hard-court season and lost to Alexandra Dulgheru, the world No 48, in the first round of the US Open.

Today Kvitova is three years older and three years wiser, but she is still unsure what to expect in the coming weeks and months. "Maybe it will help that I already know what it feels like to be champion," she said.

Kvitova said that being so much in the public eye had come as a shock after her victory here three years ago. "It was very difficult to handle," she said. "Suddenly the media and everyone were very interested in me, and in many ways it changed my life."

Kvitova's triumph extended her country's remarkable record in tennis and one of the first to congratulate the new champion was Martina Navratilova, the greatest Czech of them all.

"I went up the stairs and she was there waiting for me," Kvitova said. "She said, 'congratulations'. Then I saw her on the TV and she had tears in her eyes again. She was so happy. I know she's a really big fan of mine."

As Kvitova proved with her crushing 6-3, 6-0 victory over Bouchard, when she hits her flat groundstrokes with such power and accuracy she is all but unstoppable on grass. What she needs to do now is to improve her record on other surfaces; Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament where she has made the final.

Kvitova will climb two places to No 4 in today's updated world rankings list, while Bouchard will move up to No 7, breaking into the top 10 for the first time.

The 20-year-old Canadian was philosophical in defeat and said she would learn from her first Grand Slam final. She has had an excellent year, having also reached the semi-finals in Melbourne and Paris.

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