July 4 (Bloomberg) -- Petra Kvitova kept her cool to beat Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon for her first major tennis title. It wasn’t until she met Martina Navratilova afterward that the Czech got emotional.
Watched by 10 former female champions in the royal box at the All England Club, the 21-year-old Kvitova served her first ace on match point to beat the Russian 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court two days ago.
Kvitova said she cried after meeting Czech-born Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon singles champion and her inspiration growing up in Fulnek, a small town where her father is deputy mayor.
“My father told me: ‘Look at Martina, she is playing well, she is playing aggressive, she is from the Czech Republic,’” Kvitova said in an interview with a small group of reporters after her victory. “So she became my idol.”
Kvitova was only a few months old when Navratilova, a fellow left-hander, won her last Wimbledon singles title, so she watched recordings of her matches. And just like Navratilova, Kvitova didn’t buckle under pressure when playing for the Wimbledon championship.
Yesterday, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic also won his first All England Club title, defeating defending champion Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.
Kvitova had Sharapova on the back foot from the start of the match, hitting flat ground strokes close to the baseline as the Russian struggled with the pace and her own serve.
Sharapova handed Kvitova the break for 4-2 in the first set with two double faults. The Russian has had problems with her serve at times after she was forced to rebuild her action following shoulder surgery three years ago. Kvitova took the first set as Sharapova netted a forehand return on set point.
“She played a terrific match,” Sharapova said in a news conference. “It all just comes down to her being more aggressive and taking her chances a little bit more. Maybe I wasn’t as ready after the serve as I should have been, and she just got the first good hit. I was always kind of late.”
Kvitova remained calm in the second set, when Sharapova got the break back in the sixth game as the Czech missed two shots with the court wide open. Kvitova immediately broke back for a 4-3 lead. Serving for the title at 5-4, she sank to her knees after she aced the Russian.
Youngest Since Ivanovic
Kvitova is the youngest player to win a major since Ana Ivanovic won her lone Grand Slam title at the 2008 French Open as a 20-year-old. After Ivanovic became No. 1 in the world, the Serb struggled with injuries and pressure and is now ranked at No. 18.
Sharapova said Kvitova has the advantage over other players of her generation, such as women’s top seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who lost in the fourth round at Wimbledon and is still seeking her first major title.
“She’s a much more powerful hitter, she has bigger strokes, and I would say probably a better serve,” Sharapova said.
Three hours after her win, Kvitova still seemed stunned.
“I’m still like in a dream, so I don’t know what I can say about this,” she said in occasionally faltering English. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Czech newspapers welcomed the emergence of a new sports hero amid a resurgence in the nation’s tennis.
“Wimbledon Witnessed the Birth of a Star,” Mlada Fronta Dnes headlined today. “Modest Champion Petra Kvitova Enchanted Wimbledon,” Pravo said.
Even after some sparkling wine, Kvitova had difficulty sleeping after the final, she told Dnes. Jaromir Jagr, the Czech hockey star who’s signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, sent her an SMS of congratulations, as did members of the tennis world including Petr Korda and Ivan Lendl.
Sharapova had been the center of attention in the second week of the tournament, after pre-Wimbledon favorite and defending champion Serena Williams and five-time winner Venus Williams both lost in the fourth round. The siblings, who have won nine Wimbledon singles titles, recently returned to the women’s game following long injury-related layoffs.
Although Kvitova made the semifinals at Wimbledon last year, and this season entered the top 10 on the WTA Tour for the first time in her career, she had advanced to her first Wimbledon final away from the limelight.
After her triumph, Kvitova was stopped by Wimbledon security guards while on her way to media interviews. She was only let through after a WTA official pointed out that this was the new Wimbledon champion. She then found herself in the path of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who congratulated her on her victory.
The Czech said she hoped life will remain the same, even though Navratilova called her “the new star” of women’s tennis.
“I’m not thinking about it, that I am a new star,” Kvitova said. “I just want to stay and be normal. I don’t want to change myself.”
To contact the reporter 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: Chris Elser at email@example.com