Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic holds her trophy aloft after defeating Russia's Maria Sharapova in the ladies' singles final at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
WIMBLEDON, England — Petra Kvitova won her first Grand Slam title Saturday by defeating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 at Wimbledon, finishing with an ace and dropping to her knees in disbelief.
Kvitova was playing in her first major final, but it was three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova who showed her nerves. The 2004 Wimbledon winner double-faulted six times, including twice to get broken to 4-2 in the first set.
“It was about the serve, for sure, and the return,” said Kvitova, who lost in the semifinals last year. “I know that.”
The 21-year-old Czech is the first left-handed woman to win Wimbledon since Martina Navratilova in 1990. Using a fast and accurate forehand, Kvitova did little wrong on Centre Court as Czech greats Navratilova and Jana Novotna sat in the Royal Box with other former Wimbledon champions.
“It’s hard to find some words if I’m standing here with the trophy and see the great players in the Royal Box,” Kvitova said. “Well, I’m so happy that I won.”
Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champion, gave Kvitova two thumbs-up shortly after match point.
“A new star,” Navratilova said. “It didn’t happen overnight, but she’s a champion. It’s great.”
Kvitova kept Sharapova on the run with 18 winners, and never seemed to lose confidence despite being broken three times.
“She was hitting really powerful and hitting winners from all over the court. She made a defensive shot into an offensive one,” Sharapova said. “And, yeah, just kind of laid on a lot of those shots. I think she was just more aggressive than I was, hit deeper and harder, and got the advantage in the points.”
The magnitude of the day was never lost on Kvitova.
“Of course, I wasnervous,” she said. “I thought I can win Wimbledon. But I had to focus on each point.”
Sharapova was the clear favorite. Besides winning at the All England Club in 2004, she also won the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. Shoulder surgery in October 2008 slowed her career, but she returned to the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since then at the French Open last month.
“Besides the fact that I lost, I think this is a big step for me, being here in the final,” Sharapova said. “(I) feel like I’m improving this year. That gives me a tremendous amount of confidence for the rest of the year.”
Sharapova had not lost a set heading into the final. But she struggled with her serve in the semifinals, double-faulting 13 times before beating German wild card Sabine Lisicki.
Sharapova won the toss at the net before the final and elected to receive, perhaps wanting time to settle in before testing her serve. Whatever the reason, it appeared a smart move because she broke for a 1-0 lead as Kvitova missed three forehands.
Sharapova then served for the first time. Although she only had one fault in five attempts, she lost four of the points to make it 1-1.
“Maybe I wasn’t as ready after the serve as I should have been, and she just got the first good hit,” Sharapova said. “I was always kind of late.”
Sharapova wasted her second chance at a break in the third game. A few games later, with the score 30-30, she produced her second double-fault of the match. The third came two swings later.
Trailing 5-2, Sharapova double-faulted again to open the eighth game. But she did manage to hold and force Kvitova to serve out the set.
Kvitova broke Sharapova again in the opening game of the second set, with the Russian double-faulting for the fifth time to give the Czech a break point.
The pair twice traded breaks later in the set, but Kvitova held to win the championship dish.
“Last year was like I hadn’t many chances to win. Serena played so well,” Kvitova said, referring to her 2010 semifinal loss to the younger Williams sister. “I was young and I didn’t think that I can beat her. Today, I felt that I can.”