Thursday 12 December 2019

Classy Petra Kvitova comes of age

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic celebrates after defeating Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in the 2014 women's Wimbledon final
Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic celebrates after defeating Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in the 2014 women's Wimbledon final

Petra Kvitova arrived at the Czech Republic's top tennis academy "just a girl from a small village", anxious about adapting to big-city ways.

A decade later that country girl is a double Wimbledon champion, after dismissing fast-rising star Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets in Saturday's All England Club final.

Kvitova never relented from her fiercely superior power and precision to sweep aside Bouchard 6-3 6-0 in a surprisingly one-sided victory.

Kvitova's best friend in tennis, Lucie Safarova, bowed to the 24-year-old's superior punch in both serve and forehand in this year's Wimbledon semi-finals.

The 27-year-old met Kvitova at the Centre Court net after the straight-sets defeat and told her to reclaim the tennis world's most-coveted prize, that she first lifted in 2011.

Safarova remembers the quiet 14-year-old from the small town of Fulnek arriving at top Czech tennis nursery Prostejov - it was she who this week offered the "just a girl from a small village" remark - then watching her blossom into a talent of grand slam-winning potential.

Canada's steel-eyed Bouchard may well be tennis' future first lady, but for this afternoon at least, Kvitova had the wherewithal and the extra punch to make good on a personal promise.

Kvitova bludgeoned her way to her grand slam breakthrough at Wimbledon three years ago, only to crumple under the weight of that success.

The then raw 21-year-old now freely admits she was simply not ready for the travelling circus that stalks a grand slam champion.

Three years on and endless sessions with sports psychologist Michal Safar later, and Kvitova has finally fended off the demons that greeted her first grand slam title.

The low-key Czech with the dry sense of humour reached the last eight at Wimbledon in both 2012 and 2013, but has failed to impose herself at any other grand slam tournament.

Now though, she has proved herself no one-win wonder, and with the dominance of the Williams sisters on the wane, she could be primed to exploit her crushing power game.

The brittle confidence that dogged the two years following Kvitova's first grand slam title is no more.

If 2011 was the breakthrough, then 2014 is the coming of age.

Bouchard blasted through the Wimbledon field with bank-vault battle-hardness: that Kvitova entirely imposed her own craft and will underlines the Czech's new-found fear-free approach.

For Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian heiress of the women's game, perhaps the last step to grand slam greatness arrived just too soon.

The presence of namesake Princess Eugenie is sure to have proved a thrill for the staunch royalist, but will be no crumb of comfort as she starts the process of dealing with defeat.

The rising star from Montreal lifted the girls' title at Wimbledon only two years ago.

Despite comprehensive defeat in her first senior final, the hard-nosed and highly-talented Bouchard will be sure to channel her frustrations into the continuing grand slam quest.

For in the event this was not a day for new arrivals, more a confirmation of a bristling talent finally fully established.

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