LONDON – Maria Sharopova, the Siberian Siren, has been giving the cold shoulder to those who would beat her during this 125th Wimbledon. For two weeks she was pitching shutouts, along with her warbling, shrieking, ungenerously refusing to give up even one set. Twelve sets played; 12 sets won.
Maria had a 7-year itch, and was itching to cash in on it. Seven years ago, as a 17-year-old, she astounded the gamesplaying world by winning Wimbledon over none other than Sister Serena. Despite numerous injuries and shoulder surgery, she also won the Australian and US Opens.
Having done well in the spring events, winning the Italian Open in Rome, she came to London as the bookmakers’ baby, ranking No. 6, and was set to scratch the itch. It was a pleasant afternoon at Centre Court, a little cool with lots of clouds, and 14,979 observers, mostly admiring the chic, well known Sharapova.
However, something besides the itch got scratched because Petra Kvitova had dropped into Maria’s life. In 86 minutes the sturdy blonde 6-footer Kvitova had made herself famous as well as her hometown, Fulnek, Czech Republic, in the eastern Moravian-Silesian region of the country.
Sharapova played another 2-set match all right. The only difference was that Petra won both of them, 6-3, 6-4.
“At the end I knew I was going to win it,” said the heroine of Fulnek. A country town of 6000 Kvitova fans and an ancient castle, it is about 150 miles from Vienna. “But I had to get that match point. I wasn’t nervous, made myself focus, and went for my spot.”
They were eyeball to eyeball, 78 feet apart, and Maria knew it was over when Petra unleashed the last shot of the day. “I wasn’t trying for an ace, just wanted the point,” Petra said of her lone ace, the ball zipping down the middle at 105 MPH.
Sharopova was banging from both sides, but Kvitova usually won the fierce exchanges, and was extraordinary on defense. “Petra has incredible power,” Maria said of her 21 year old conqueror. She was more aggressive than I was, took more chances. But this was a big step for me, to get to this final after all my shoulder trouble. I will carry the confidence through for the rest of the season.”
Kvitova showed more variety. She used forehand and backhand, flat and slice and volleying appropriately. Her southpaw spin was very bothersome. She got into trouble a couple of time – broken the first game of the match – but came back slugging and never trailed.
Amazingly composed for someone in a first major final and Wimbledon at that, she did not falter in the tough parts.
Shy but good humored, Petra had some English difficulties. But the gist was, “It’s unbelievable! Me Wimbledon champion!.” It’s going to take a while to sink in, although she had a fine Wimbledon a year ago, taking a set in the semis from the champ, Serena. “I just want to play more,” she grinned, golden hair tumbling below her shoulders.
She said “I like being a lefty.” She being one of only three women who have won Wimbledon following Martina Navratilova who was cheering for her in the Royal Box along with Czech winner Jana Novotna and Ann Jones, another lefty winner of Wimbledon. Also seizing a major way back was, Evelyn Sears of Waltham, Mass., the US Championships in 1907.
Other Czech winners of majors: Jaroslav Drobny, Ivan Lendl, Jana Novotna, Hana Mandlikova.
Petra laughed, “I think my father is still crying. He cries after all my wins. I cried for a while, especially after being congratulated by Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna, but got past it. I’m anxious to get back to Fulnek and see my friends, They put up a giant TV screen in the town square so that all my friends and neighbors could watch the match.” She told her boyfriend to stay home.” Maybe he’s weeping, too.
The ordeal of her family was almost as tough as playing Wimbledon. Jiri Kvit, her father, who taught her how to play, is a teacher as well as deputy mayor of Fulnek, elected last year. Her mother, Pavla and brothers, Jiri an engineer and Libor, a teacher, left Fulnek on Friday to be on hand for today’s final.
They drove to Vienna where they caught a plane to Frankfurt. They missed the plane to London, so slept in chairs at the Frankfurt airport. Saturday they got the London flight and made it from the airport to the All England Club on the tube.
“What a trip,” said Papa. He was still bawling over the success of his daughter. Petra just smiled while trying to absorb her newfound status.