Three years ago, Petra Kvitova was poised to take over women's tennis when she won Wimbledon at the age of 21. Fast forward to 2014, with a couple of semifinal appearances under her belt, the 24-year-old appeared to hit a crossroads in her career.
It turns out all the young star needed was a clear head and return trip to the All England Club, because Kvitova proved beyond a shadow of doubt that she is among the elite class of players in the world with a dominant win over Eugenie Bouchard in the final of this year's Wimbledon.
The irony is most fans and analysts expected the match to be a coronation for Bouchard, who was appearing in her first Grand Slam final after making it to the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open.
Instead, Kvitova needed just 55 minutes to remind everyone why she was a rising star in 2011 and why it was foolish to dismiss her. After all, the lefty entered the match against Bouchard with a 25-5 career mark on grass at the All England Club.
The most telling moment of the match came early in the first set with Kvitova holding a 2-1 lead and the advantage in the fourth game. All you need to see is the highlight, courtesy of Wimbledon's official Twitter feed, to know how the match was going to go:
What makes that such a unique moment and turning point for the match is because Kvitova isn't known for her returning ability. She's a long, lanky player with a huge left-handed serve that overwhelms opponents, but when you get her in long rallies, she tends to lose her way.
Peter Bodo of ESPN.com wrote in October 2011, after Kvitova won the WTA Championships and climbed to No. 2 in the world rankings, that mental and physical composure were her keys to success.
Kvitova has a big game (something we already knew). But she has an equally big temperament (something we did not). With so much power, so many moving parts, and so big a body, the whole kit and caboodle is apt to fall apart now and then. The ability to survive the lapses with no loss of composure or confidence is a great talent.
Kvitova opened up to the media at Wimbledon this year, acknowledging that she has worked with a sports psychologist to calm her anxiety and just have someone to talk with before or after a match.
Not many athletes want to acknowledge they need help keeping their emotions in check, especially through the use of a psychologist, so Kvitova was also telling us that she's no longer afraid to open herself up to the world.
With nothing burdening her anymore, Kvitova was free to play the game however she wants. We saw the efforts of that work during the two weeks at Wimbledon, culminating in this win.
Now, with two Wimbledon titles under her belt, no one can accuse Kvitova of being a one-hit wonder or flash in the pan. She withstood a difficult test from a rejuvenated Venus Williams in the third round, which would end up being the only match she would lose a set, and steamrolled the next great star in the women's final.
One championship can be considered a fluke, but two proves that Kvitova deserves to have her name mentioned among the best in the world today.
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