In 2004, at the age of 17, Maria Sharapova advanced to her first major final and stunned the overwhelming favorite Serena Williams at Wimbledon. Seven years hence, in her second final at the All England Club, Sharapova ran into an intrepid twenty-one year old copycat. Petra Kvitova, a lefty from the Czech Republic, shocked the Russian 6-3,6-4 to prevail in her maiden major final.
After Kvitova was broken to open the match, it seemed that nerves would be the deciding factor in the match. However, Kvitova manufactured triple break point and capitalized to get back on serve.
Her next service game, Kvitova wiped out break point to hold for 2-1. Later, subsequent to a forehand winner by Kvitova, Sharapova double faulted to hand her opponent break point. Sharapova produced a second double fault to give Kvitova a 4-2 edge.
With great serving, Kvitova consolidated for a 5-2 advantage. By relentlessly pressuring Sharapova’s serve, Kvitova came to her first set point when her counterpart dumped a forehand into the net.
Yet, with an ace, Sharapova cleared that hurdle. Ultimately, Sharapova guarded serve for 3-5. Still, at love, a serene Kvitova secured the first set.
At the start of the second set, with Sharapova’s fifth double fault, Kvitova had a break point. By striking a forehand down the line winner, the Czech took the game. Despite a couple of double faults, Kvitova maintained serve for a 2-0 lead.
When Kvitova misfired on a couple of easy strokes to donate a break point, Sharapova made her pay. With a lob winner, the Russian banked the game to level the set at 2 all.
With the door left more ajar, like many first time major finalists, Kvitova appeared unable to seize the moment. Perhaps, Sharapova was witnessing the beginning of Kvitova’s undoing. But, Kvitova proved to be different.
Next, the underdog overpowered Sharapova with a deep forehand to get her second break point with Sharapova having three prior game points. With a forehand return winner, Kvitova once again went ahead 3-2.
Promptly though, Sharapova returned the favor. The Russian attacked a second serve on break point for a winner to arrive at 3 all. However, Kvitova would not be denied. With Sharapova netting a forehand up the line, Kvitova had double break point. On a miscue by Sharapova, Kvitova captured a 4-3 advantage.
This time, Kvitova maintained serve to put herself four points from the championship. After Sharapova guarded serve at love for 4-5. Kvitova placed three magnificent serves to have triple match point. Then, by thumping her first ace of the day, Kvitova sealed the championship.
Sharapova had not surrendered a set coming into the final. Today, she recognized that she ran into an opponent who simply outplayed her “[Kvitova] played a wonderful tournament. . . She played incredible tennis and powerful shot from all over the court”.
Still, Sharapova appreciates being a finalist considering the difficult trek she’s had since her shoulder operation “ every athlete wants to be in the final of Wimbledon . . I would rather have the big [trophy], but it’s something”.
Moreover, Sharapova stated that her performance this fortnight is “encouragement to keep working hard [and] she will be back” in a future Wimbledon final.
In disbelief, Kvitova could hardly speak especially “seeing all the great champions in the royal box”. Kvitova cited “I’m happy that I won”. For Kvitova, the key to triumphing was “I did not thing it was the final of Wimbledon . . . I focused on each point and played my best tennis”.
Kvitova bagged her fourth title of the year. She followed her hardcourt win in Brisbane with a title in Paris by beating Kim Clijsters, then in Madrid on clay she defeated Victoria Azarenka. The latter was again Kvitova’s victim in the Wimbledon semifinals.
Since 2000, this was the third Wimbledon final not featuring either Serena or Venus Williams. Kvitova became the first Czech winner since Jana Novotna in 1998 while the last lefty to hoist the trophy at Wimbledon was Martina Navratilova in 1990.
Thirty-fourth at the end of 2010, this youngster has skyrocketed up the rankings. Kvitova will climb from number eight to a career best of number seven. As the runner-up, Sharapova will inch up a spot to number five.
With three majors decided this season, there have been three different winners and Caroline Wozniacki, the world number one, is not amongst them. Moreover, despite a fourth round exit in London, Wozniacki will remain at the top spot.
Wozniacki’s last and only major final was the 2009 U.S. Open where she come up short. In fact, since assuming the number one ranking in October 2010, Wozniacki has yet to reach a major final. Consequently, the Dane will continue to have much to answer for the rest of the year.