Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is making a successful comeback both on and off the court after a seven-week break to recover from exhaustion.
After adding a second major to her 2011 Wimbledon championship in July, a busy last part of the year followed with trips to the U.S., Asia and a return to Europe. She finished her season in the second week of November by helping the Czech Republic win a third Fed Cup title in four years. At the Australian Open in January, something didn’t feel quite right.
“I felt tired and exhausted,” Kvitova said in an interview last week, after she signed a sponsorship deal with Beverly Hills, California-based watchmaker Ritmo Mundo. “After Fed Cup, I only had two weeks off and then I started training again.”
Kvitova lost to Madison Keys of the U.S. in the third round in Melbourne, where she’d reached the semifinals in 2012.
“I was feeling very empty and not really excited to play,” she said. “It was difficult for me to be able to play at 100 percent.”
After talking to her longtime coach, David Kotyza, Kvitova decided to take time off to rest at the end of February. Skipping hard-court events in Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Kvitova didn’t touch a racket for four weeks, instead going to the beach. Since then, she’s worked on her fitness and two weeks ago started on-court work.
Fed Cup Return
Last weekend, Kvitova won both singles matches in the Fed Cup semifinals against France on indoor hard court in Ostrava, Czech Republic, to help put her country into the finals for the fourth time in five years.
Still ranked fourth in the world, she’ll return to the women’s tour this week in Stuttgart, Germany, for the start of the European clay-court season that culminates with the French Open at the end of May. Kvitova will play either a late qualifier or Madison Brengle of the U.S. in her opening round.
Kvitova said she was “delighted” about the relationship with Ritmo Mundo, her first with a jewelry brand, and also her first non-apparel U.S. deal.
Under the agreement, Kvitova will promote the Ritmo Mundo and Reflex watch brands, with the company using her in digital and print campaigns globally. The Ritmo watch sells for around $1,000 while its Reflex slap watch costs about $120.
A month after overpowering Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in last year’s Wimbledon finals, Kvitova signed with IMG Worldwide Inc., saying she wanted to broaden her endorsement portfolio.
Kvitova’s annual earnings from prize money and endorsements -- with mostly eastern European companies including Czech postal services firm Ceska Posta, eastern Europe’s biggest power utility CRZ Group, Unicredit Bank and also Nike Inc. -- were estimated at $3.3 million by Forbes last year. That’s almost eight times less than Russia’s Maria Sharapova, another IMG client who is the world’s best-paid female athlete.
The 25-year-old Kvitova is the only tennis player -- male or female -- born in the 1990s to have won a major, a statistic that appealed to Ritmo Mundo founder and president Ali Soltani.
“She is young, she has a bright future and the fact that she is a woman is attractive to both men and women,” Soltani, a former attorney who started the company in 2002, said in an interview.
Soltani declined to disclose financial details, but said the multiyear deal is “a significant investment,” for Ritmo Mundo aimed at boosting its international exposure.
Headquartered on Rodeo Drive, Ritmo Mundo has $10 million in revenue. Although it has stores in France, the Netherlands and the Middle East, the bulk of sales are in the U.S.
Soltani is betting Kvitova will be back to her old level soon.
“She’s going to be a contending force,” he said. “It’s like betting on horses, which I don’t, but if you are going be betting on somebody, she is at the top of her game, her personality matches our brand.”
Although Kvitova was a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2012, she’s not setting herself any goals on the slow clay-court surface this spring.
“I don’t have a lot of matches in my bag now,” she said. “I don’t expect anything amazing right now but I hope it’s going to be better.”