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WIMBLEDON: WOMEN'S FINAL

Kvitova pulls up a lawn chair

She beats Sharapova in first major final, and at 21 appears poised to stay in tennis' top tier.

July 03, 2011|Diane Pucin

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — It was as if Petra Kvitova owned Centre Court, as if she was planning to make this a habit.

Kvitova, 6 feet tall and left-handed and playing in her first Wimbledon final, straightened her shoulders, bounced the ball three times and without any uncertainty went big.

She blasted an ace, right in the middle of the service box past a former champion, Maria Sharapova, who had no room to react, or do anything except drop her racket and shake hands with the new champion.

Kvitova, seeded eighth, was the player always moving forward Saturday as she thoroughly beat 2004 champion Sharapova, 6-3, 6-4, in 1 hour 25 minutes.

The 21-year-old from the Czech Republic became the first left-hander since Martina Navratilova in 1990 to win here, and she is the youngest Wimbledon winner since Sharapova took the title as a 17-year-old.

When Kvitova's final ace, her only one of the match but 36th of the tournament, whizzed past the fifth-seeded Sharapova, Kvitova opened her mouth in apparent amazement, then dropped to the ground to kiss the grass.

A year ago Kvitova, then ranked 62nd in the world, first rose into the consciousness of tennis fans by reaching the Wimbledon semifinals.

She was beaten by eventual champion Serena Williams, 7-6 (5), 6-2, but from that loss, she said, she gained the experience and confidence to play Saturday's final with her skill unaffected by her nerves.

"I knew how the feeling would be when I went on the court," Kvitova said. "What it would be in my head. I had nothing to lose last year. This year it was different. I can win."

Kvitova might have gained another jolt of confidence when Sharapova won the coin toss and elected to receive serve. That seemed to indicate the lack of faith Sharapova has in what should be a decisive stroke.

The 24-year-old Russian, who has a home in Manhattan Beach, had 13 double faults in her semifinal victory over Sabine Lisicki, and though she had only six Saturday, one came on break point in the sixth game of the first set, when Kvitova took an advantage she held through the final game of the set.

But more than uncertain serving, Sharapova was overpowered by Kvitova's confident ground strokes.

"She was hitting really powerful and hitting winners from all over the court," Sharapova said. "She made a defensive shot into an offensive one. I think she was just more aggressive than I was, hit deeper and harder and got the advantage in the points."

Kvitova, who said she drives a Czech-made Skoda car and insisted she would not be dancing Sunday night at the traditional Wimbledon champions dinner because she can't dance, displayed all of her skill as well as her poise in the final game.

Serving with a 5-4 lead, Kvitova smashed a big backhand winner, moved Sharapova into a corner where the Russian put a forehand into the net, accepted an undisciplined backhand return that Sharapova put into the net and then served up her one and only ace of the match.

"I thought before the game when I was serving that I have to do it now," she said. "Then when I had 40-love it was like I was just going for the point and that I believed in myself."

It was a calmness she didn't expect.

"I was surprised how I was feeling," she said. "I was focused only on the point and on the game and not on the final and the trophy."

Last year Kvitova lost in the first round of five straight tournaments after her run to the Wimbledon semifinals.

After she won Saturday, though, she didn't celebrate extravagantly.

It was as if she expected to do this again.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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