The face of any sport is usually the holder of certain titles. In cricket, it is the world cup winning captain, in football it is the Ballon D ‘Or winner and in tennis it is usually considered to be the Wimbledon champion. While Novak Djokovic is now undoubtedly the face of men’s tennis, the face of women’s tennis is by unspoken law, the legendary Serena Williams, the glamarous Maria Sharapova or the temperamental Viktoria Azarenka while a shy Czech lurks about somewhere in the shadow despite being the Wimbledon champion. Someone ought to tell Petra Kvitova that she has is the defending Wimbledon champion and can display some level of arrogance that Williams or Sharapova consider as their birthright.
When you are a women’s player from the same country as Martina Navaratilova, you have some billing to live up to. Just ask Darren Bravo how difficult he has found life after people expected him to be Brian Lara from day one. However, Kvitova, in the early stages of her career showed amazing promise. She reached the fourth round of her very first grandslam event as an 18 year old in the 2008 French Open. However, Kvitova found life harder as she moved into the tour.
At one point in 2010, she exited five tournaments in a row in the first round. It would have been highly demoralizing for any twenty year old upcoming tennis player to go through such a torrid time. Top level sports can be very cruel at times. The arrival of 2011 heralded a change in Kvitova’s life. In the very first tournament of that year, Kvitova defeated Andrea Petkovic to earn her second career title at the Brisbane open. She then went on to reach the Quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
Kvitova, the player, was arriving. Her lefty angles, her powerful groundstrokes and great serving with the angle were developing into highly strong assets. While Djokovic’s maiden Wimbledon triumph stole all the limelight in the 2011 Championships, the women’s side had a first time winner too. It was Kvitova who overcame heavy favourites Azarenka and Sharapova to seal the title and become the first player ever born in the 1990s to win a grandslam.
Kvitova’s career went through a great phase as she was a part of the Hopman cup and the Fed Cup winning Czech team. However, 2013 was quite a bad year for her and she lost form and fitness and fell out of the top 10. Her frustration levels were fueled by several early round exits at all the major tournaments. However, 2014 saw her markedly change her game. Kvitova no longer went for risky winners with her powerful forehand. She chose to add control to her power and also added a handy second serve which spun away from the receiver when serving from the ‘ad’ court.
As a result of these improvements and her increasing fitness levels, Kvitova enjoyed a return to the top in 2014. She won her second grandslam, once again a Wimbledon crown, as she overcame the much hyped and fawned over Eugiene Bouchard in straight sets. She ended 2014 as the world number four.
2015 has seen a lukewarm start for Kvitova but as always, she takes a while to get going in the season. Her favourite grandslam is of course Wimbledon but her game is very suited to clay courts and she poses a potent threat at the French Open as well.
Off the court, she is a very shy personality, unlike the likes of Sharapova or Williams who often have spats in public. Kvitova rarely gets riled up and handles herself on and off the court in a dignified manner. Unlike the likes of Kirilenko or Bouchard, she is not a model (though not lacking in beauty to be one). Rather than what she is, she can be defined by what she is not – not arrogant, not attention seeking, not soap opera.
She is Petra Kvitova, the shy, stylish lefty who is the reigning Wimbledon Champion.