Venus and Serena Williams might have 10 Wimbledon titles between them, but right now, nobody is as good on grass as Petra Kvitova.
The 24-year-old Czech first announced herself when she won the Wimbledon title back in 2011. This year, she cemented herself as a grass-court great with a 55-minute, 6-3, 6-0 victory over No. 13 Eugenie Bouchard in the final.
All the talk heading into this match was focussed on Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian who has had a remarkable year on the WTA Tour and is being billed as a budding superstar. But playing in her first major final, Bouchard had no answers for the Czech lefty.
Kvitova was in peak form, looking even more dominant than she did in 2011. It was one of the most lopsided women's finals in Wimbledon history. In just 15 games, Kvitova hit 28 winners and only 12 unforced errors.
That stat is even more impressive when you realize that Bouchard only hit four unforced errors in the entire match. This wasn't about Bouchard's subpar play, it was all about Kvitova's out-of-body shotmaking.
As Chris Chase of USA Today's For the Win points out, Kvitova was pretty much unplayable on Saturday:
With her serve cracking and playing defense like a brick wall, Kvitova barely allowed Bouchard to get her bearings on Centre Court. Rare were the rallies over four shots. Kvitova created angles on shots, hitting winners on almost half her points. She quickly put away the first set in 37 minutes, then went for the bagel in 28 minutes.
Since 2010, Kvitova has made the quarterfinals or beyond at the Championships, a 26-3 record that includes two losses to Serena. But this win took her to another level.
She is no longer a 21-year-old from a small town who is overwhelmed by attention and expectations. Now, the two-time Wimbledon champion is ready to take her place at the top of the game.
Besides Serena (17), Venus (seven) and Maria Sharapova (five), the only other active players with multiple Slams on the WTA Tour are Li Na, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Victoria Azarenka, with two Slams each.
Of that group, Kvitova is the youngest. She's the only player on either tour born in the 1990s to win a major. Bouchard had a chance to join that group on Saturday, but she fell way short.
Kvitova now joins Serena, Venus and Steffi Graf as the only women since 1990 with multiple Wimbledon titles. That's pretty great company. Of course, as she joked during the on-court trophy presentation, she has a long way to go before she catches another famous Czech lefty, nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova.
When Kvitova first won the title three years ago, she slapped the ball around the court, painting the lines and showing no fear. But that strategy didn't prove to be a sustainable one, and her new-found fame was tough to deal with. Under the blindingly bright spotlight that was focused on her after the victory, Kvitova found herself a bit lost.
Still, she was close to the No. 1 ranking at the end of 2011 and she remained in the Top 10 for the next two years. She made the semi-finals at the Australian Open and French Open in 2012 and won two huge WTA titles in 2013—Dubai and Tokyo.
But her inconsistency and frequent illnesses caused tennis outsiders to question whether Kvitova would ever fulfill the potential she showed in the run to her maiden Wimbledon title.
She talked to the press about her journey after her semi-final win over her countrywoman Lucie Safarova, per the official Wimbledon website:
I think these three years was really up and down during the season. I knew that a lot of people are expecting from me something more than I did probably.
But on the other side, I was still in the top 10 and I did everything what I could. I was practicing very hard and everything. But it's never easy with the girls obviously.
Yeah, was a lot of positive things I got, but definitely when I won here 2011 I needed to change a little bit myself on the court and off the court, as well, to used to the pressure, media, and everything like that.
Not only did Kvitova get used to the spotlight, but she improved every facet of her game.
In the final on Saturday, it was clear that her movement, fitness and versatility have improved immensely. This point—possibly the point of the year—showcases what a complete player she is now.
While the Czech wasn't challenged much at all during the final, she was pushed to the brink in her third-round match against Venus Williams. That 5-7, 7-6, 7-5 victory was the most high-quality match of the tournament, and it showed how mentally tough she has truly become.
It takes some champions a little bit of time to find their way. After Serena won her first major in 1999, it took her another three years to win her second. The same thing happened on the men's side with Novak Djokovic.
Of course, Kvitova has a long way to go until she rivals the career accomplishments of Serena or even Djokovic, but after her unrelenting display throughout the fortnight, it's clear that she's back on the right track.
She may not be as bold or flashy off the court as some of her peers, but on the court she is as dangerous as anyone.
For years to come, Kvitova will be a contender for major titles and a force at the top of the game throughout the tennis season. At Wimbledon, she might just be unstoppable.
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