July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Petra Kvitova won her first major tennis title by beating former champion and tournament favorite Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final.
Kvitova won 6-3, 6-4 yesterday on Centre Court at the All England Club in southwest London. The 21-year-old, who sunk to her knees after ending the match with an ace, is the first Czech woman to win Wimbledon since Jana Novotna took the title in 1998. Novotna watched from the royal box.
“It’s hard to find some words, standing here with the trophy and see some of the great players in the royal box” Kvitova said in a court-side interview. “Of course I was nervous, but I felt I could win Wimbledon.”
Spain’s Rafael Nadal attempts to defend his men’s title when he faces Novak Djokovic of Serbia today. Djokovic, who will take the No. 1 ranking on the men’s ATP World Tour after the tournament, has beaten Nadal in four finals already this year, but has never defeated him in five previous Grand Slam meetings.
Kvitova’s path to her first major championship had been cleared when defending champion Serena Williams and five-time winner Venus Williams both lost in the fourth round. Serena had beaten Kvitova in the semifinals last year. The Williams sisters, who before today had taken nine of the past 11 singles titles at the All England Club, had only played one tournament before Wimbledon after long injury-related lay-offs. Kim Clijsters, the reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champion from Belgium, was forced to pull out of Wimbledon with an injury.
“I was surprised how I was feeling on the court because I was focused only on the point and on the game and not on the final and the medal,” Kvitova said in a news conference.
“She was hitting really powerful and hitting winners from all over the court,” Sharapova told reporters. “She made a defensive shot into an offensive one. I just kind of laid on a lot of those shots. She was just more aggressive than I was, hit deeper and harder, and got the advantage in the points.”
Sharapova, 24, had been trying to add a second Wimbledon championship to the one she captured as a 17-year-old seven years ago, before a shoulder injury threatened the career that has made her the best-paid woman in sports.
“Besides the fact that I lost, this is a big step for me, being here in the final,” Sharapova said. “I’m improving this year. That gives me a tremendous amount of confidence for the rest of the year.”
Kvitova lost her opening service game, then immediately broke back. In the third game, Sharapova had another break point, but the Czech took it back and won the game with a forehand. With Kvitova leading 3-2, the Russian had two double faults in a row to lose the game. She continued to struggle with her serve and Kvitova had a set point at 5-2 before Sharapova held. Kvitova then won the set by converting the first of three set points.
Sharapova opened the second set on serve, and double faulted to give a break point that Kvitova took with a forehand on the line. She won her service game before Sharapova held to break a streak of six straight games for Kvitova.
Sharapova broke back with a lob to even the set at 2-2. The Russian couldn’t hold her own serve, but Kvitova missed two ground strokes into open court to allow her back in at 3-3. With two break points, Kvitova lost one on a backhand in the net before Sharapova hit a forehand long.
Kvitova then held, forcing Sharapova to serve to stay in the match. After the righthander held at love, the Czech got three match points when Sharapova hit a backhand into the net. She then won with her first ace of the match.
Kvitova produced 19 winners, while Sharapova had 10. The Czech made 13 unforced errors, one more than the Russian. Sharapova hit six double faults, two more than Kvitova.
Kvitova had begun the year ranked 62nd on the WTA Tour rankings and has climbed to eighth by winning three tournaments and reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open at the start of the season. She’ll be No. 7 after Wimbledon.
Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1, had been the 4-7 favorite to win the title at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc. That means a successful $7 bet would have returned $4 plus the original wager. Kvitova was at 6-4.
Kvitova is the first left-handed player to reach the Wimbledon championship match since nine-time winner Martina Navratilova, a former Czech and her idol growing up, made the 1994 finals.
Kvitova, who trains in the same tennis club as last year’s men’s finalist, Tomas Berdych, in Prostejov, is the fourth Czech-born woman to reach the Wimbledon final. Novotna and Navratilova both won the title, while Hana Mandlikova was a runnerup twice.
Kvitova’s win marks the first time since 2008 that three different women have won the year’s first three majors. Clijsters won in Melbourne in January, while Li Na became the first player from China to win a major singles title at the French Open last month.
To contact the reporters on this story: Danielle Rossingh at Wimbledon through the London sports desk at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com