Kvitova Wins Wimbledon, upsets Sharapova

Jul 3, 2011

Pic: Kvitova wins wimbledon 2011

A statuesque blonde with sizzling ground strokes advances to her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon and stares down a more seasoned foe known for her grit and grunts to usher in a changing of the guard in women’s tennis.

Seven years ago, Sharapova was the ingénue with all the right strokes, upsetting Serena Williams to begin her charge to No. 1. On Saturday, Petra Kvitova starred in the sequel, upsetting Sharapova, 6-3, 6-4, with an array of shots and nerves of steel.

Kvitova, who is from a small town in the Czech Republic, became the third left-hander to win on the women’s side and the first since another Czech, Martina Navratilova, in 1990. She produced 19 winners against 13 unforced errors. Sharapova, the No. 5 seed, had 10 winners and 12 unforced errors and seemed to be playing from her heels from the start.

The Centre Court crowd was strangely subdued in the first set, as if unsure of which 6-foot, power-hitting, pony-tailed blonde to throw its support behind. Sharapova was serving in the sixth game when Kvitova, the No. 8 seed, hit a forehand volley winner for 30-30. After the clapping subsided, a voice cried out, “C’mon, Maria!” It was followed by another fan shrieking, “C’mon, Petra!”

The chair umpire asked for quiet and then all chaos broke out with Sharapova’s serve when she produced two consecutive double faults to hand Kvitova a 4-2 lead. In the next game, Kvitova was positioning herself for an overheard smash when another female voice rang out crying, “Petra, you got it!”

That drew another rebuke from the chair umpire, but what the fan said was true.

Sharapova, who had 13 double faults in nine service games in her semifinal victory against Sabine Lisicki, finished with six double faults, her shaky serve making it hard for her to play the attacking style that defines her game at its best.

“Maria plays first-strike tennis,” Tracy Austin, a two-time United States Open winner, said before the match. “That translates well to this surface. At the same time, she needs to rely on that serve. If she starts to struggle with that, the lack of confidence, the lack of aggressiveness, can seep into the rest of her game.”

The 21-year-old Kvitova went for broke again and again, as if she was playing with house money. She placed second serves down the T and hit blistering strokes from both sides as if she had no fear of them landing out.
“I think we’re seeing the new players taking charge,” Navratilova said before the final. “Most of all, they’re playing to win. That’s what I like to see. They’re not scared out there. They’re playing forceful tennis.”

The era of big, brave tennis was introduced by Williams and her sister Venus, and it was accentuated by the 2004 Wimbledon final when Sharapova, then a lithe 17-year-old upstart, matched Williams ground stroke for ground stroke and glare for glare in a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Sharapova’s verve was exceeded only by the vigor of her ground strokes, but such power came at a cost. In 2008, her sixth full year on the women’s tour, Sharapova’s right shoulder sustained a tear from the stress and strain.

A season that started with so much promise — with victories in three of her first four events, including the Australian Open — ended with Sharapova’s undergoing rotator-cuff surgery on her shoulder in October 2008.