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Wimbledon women's final between Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova is a study in contrasts

Saturday's match pits 24-year-old Sharapova, a veteran who won Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17 and knows what it's like to be a brash upstart, against Kvitova, an actual upstart in her first major final.

July 01, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Maria Sharapova, left, and Petra Kvitova will play for the Wimbledon women's title on Saturday.
Maria Sharapova, left, and Petra Kvitova will play for the Wimbledon women's… (Glyn Kirk / AFP/Getty Images;…)

Reporting from Wimbledon, England — Someone who should know has a simple conception of how the Wimbledon women's final Saturday between 2004 champion Maria Sharapova and major final rookie Petra Kvitova will turn out.

"It's such a tossup," nine-time champion Martina Navratilova said. "It basically comes down to who serves better."

Kvitova, a 21-year-old left-hander from the Czech Republic, has been past the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament only once, a loss to Serena Williams in a Wimbledon semifinal last year. Sharapova has three Grand Slam-level championships — U.S. Open and Australian Open wins to go with her Wimbledon title seven years ago. But Kvitova was quick to correct an impression that, as the underdog, she has nothing to lose.

"Of course I have something to lose," she said. "I'm going on the court for the win and not that I can lose for sure."

Sharapova was 17 when she won Wimbledon in a 2004 upset over Williams, and she spoke almost nostalgically about being a young rookie in a major final.

"It's something where you don't really know what to expect and you almost have that feeling of nothing to lose," she said. "And you go for it. I think that's kind of what I did when I was here at that stage.

"I didn't really know what was going to happen. I knew I was facing a really good opponent that had done well on grass and was a former champion. But that didn't really bother me."

Navratilova, the last left-handed woman to reach a Wimbledon final (in 1994), described what she expects to see Saturday on Centre Court as "first strike on the ball" tennis.

"Maria probably has the best return of serve in the game," Navratilova said. "I think Kvitova will get on top of the rally a little bit earlier. Once the ball is in play, Sharapova has the edge though."

Kvitova has had the stronger serve throughout the tournament and has 35 aces. Since she had shoulder surgery in 2008, Sharapova has struggled with that shot; she was able to survive her semifinal against Sabine Lisicki even though she hit 13 double faults and made only 41% of her first serves.

A year ago, Kvitova played in her first major semifinal. Now she's back in her first final.

"I love the grass," she said. "My game is good for the grass."

That's how Sharapova felt seven years ago.

Also Saturday, top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan of Camarillo will play Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Horia Tecau of Romania in the final of men's doubles.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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