Wimbledon, Jul 3 : Unknown no more, Petra Kvitova is a Wimbledon champion.The 21-year-old Czech, who has worked her way up the rankings from 34th at the end of last season to No. 7 on Monday, beat Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the women's final Saturday.
And moments after finishing the match with an ace and dropping to her knees in celebration, Kvitova giggled when she saw her name etched in gold on the winner's board inside the All England Club."I don't know about this still. It's still (an) unbelievable feeling," said Kvitova, who was playing in her first Grand Slam final.
"Maybe I'll accept it after, I don't know, some days." Kvitova is the first left-handed woman to win the Wimbledon title since Martina Navratilova in 1990.
And it was the nine-time champion that was giving her two thumbs up from her seat in the Royal Box as she was accepting well-wishes from anyone that could get her attention.
"She played brave tennis and she deserved to win. She was by far the better player," said Navratilova, who was born and raised in Czechoslovakia. "It didn't happen overnight, but she's a champion. It's great.Kvitova is only the third Czech woman to win the title at the All England Club, following Navratilova and Jana Novotna.
Both were in the Royal Box, along with a host of other former champions. And both congratulated her after the match. "I cried after I met them," Kvitova said.
Kvitova was playing in her first major final, but it was 2004 Wimbledon champion Sharapova that showed nerves. The 24-year-old Russian double-faulted six times, including twice to get broken to 4-2 in the first set. Then, when the ball was in play, Kvitova used a fast-paced and well-placed forehand to keep Sharapova on the run, finishing the match with 19 winners.
"It was about the serve, for sure, and the return," said Kvitova, who lost in the semifinals last year. "I know that she return very well, but I know that I can return her serve also. I knew that she make some double-fault."
When the match started, Sharapova was the clear favorite. Besides winning the title at the All England Club in 2004, she also won the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before shoulder surgery in October 2008 slowed her career. She managed to break Kvitova in the opening game on Centre Court, but was broken right back in the second and then again in the sixth.
"She was hitting really powerful and hitting winners from all over the court. She made a defensive shot into an offensive one," Sharapova said."She was just more aggressive than I was, hit deeper and harder, and got the advantage in the points."
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 wildcard Sabine Lisicki.Her serve wasn't as bad as that against Kvitova, but there were other problems with her game. "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."
Another difference between the opponents may have been in attitude. While Sharapova was worried about her serve and how she was playing after it, Kvitova went into the match believing in her chances.
"Last year was like I hadn't many chances to win. Serena played so well," Kvitova said of 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."AP