Confident Kvitova ready to up her game
TENNIS WIMBLEDON:“AFTER I won Wimbledon last year you saw how my father was crying,” Petra Kvitova says, her eyes widening at the memory of a deeply personal moment. Throughout last year’s final against Maria Sharapova, Kvitova’s father, Jiri, was a man consumed.
Whenever she won a crucial point he shuddered with delight while a heavily mulleted family friend bellowed like an old seal as he exchanged double high-fives with her two older brothers. There were times when Jiri looked as if he might catch fire amid such searing passion.
“He was a little crazy,” Kvitova says, laughing, “and for me it was a little funny. The tears were the most funny. Normally, when I was a kid, he showed no emotion. And now he was crying ...”
Kvitova pauses and then, with comic timing, says coolly, “A lot! He was crying on court. He was crying for an hour after the match was over. When I have a good result, now, he is like that. But he wasn’t always the same.”
Wimbledon begins on Monday and Kvitova’s defence of her title, especially against Sharapova, the new world No 1 and French Open champion, will test a belief that the 22-year-old Czech will eventually emerge as a dominant force. Martina Navratilova, born in Czechoslovakia and Kvitova’s inspiration, insists that the young woman from the small town of Fulnek will become a great of the women’s game.
Yet, before she relives her emotional visit to Wimbledon with Navratilova, Kvitova offers an illuminating account of her relationship with her father and their stark past. “I will always be the little sister,” she says, “because my one brother is 36 this year and the other is 33. My father was their coach and they tried to play well, but it was hard because my family did not have much money. We didn’t have a car so they had to travel by train - and it wasn’t really possible for them to think of a nice future in tennis.
“I practised with my father until I was 16 in Fulnek. Sometimes it was tough. I couldn’t go out with my friends because I had to practise. He knew what young kids do. In Fulnek there is nothing there. We have four tennis courts, a castle and a sports centre. I played volleyball until I was 11, but my friends were just walking through the streets, maybe smoking a cigarette. He was a teacher, and so he was maybe afraid about this.
“It was a really hard time for me when I was 15 or 16. With my father I didn’t have a very good relationship because of tennis.
“When we were at home we were still talking about the tennis and it was too much. It wasn’t much good for us. And I didn’t want to continue with the tennis.”
Was she simply fed up with her father controlling her life? “It was hard but I’m not really a party person. So for me it was okay and I did get out sometimes with my friends. Just never in the week because I didn’t have time. But we were maybe too close with the tennis, me and my father. He didn’t make the lives of my brothers and me very easy. He pushed us very hard but that’s why I am where I am now.”
How is her current relationship with her dad? “Good,” Kvitova says. “For my parents a lot has changed. They have three children with their own lives and they now have more money so they can relax and not be afraid. So for them it’s a much easier life. I know how proud and relaxed they are. Two years ago they were still worried, asking what’s happening, how are you? So it gives me pleasure to make them happy.
“But my dad has big passion. For the Federation Cup [when the Czechs defeated Italy 4-1 in May in Ostrava] he ordered 140 tickets. It was a great atmosphere and lots of people came to watch me from Fulnek. I was nervous; but I was happy how it turned out.”
In contrast to her father, Kvitova’s mother is “much more calm. I have taken that from her. I have that same calm inside me”.
That serene assurance has often distinguished her play on grass. “The first time I played on grass, at Roehampton, I won a junior tournament. It was terrible. It was raining all the time but I stayed calm. There was so much rain that, when we started playing at last, we had sets of four games. The scores would be like 4-3, 4-1.
“And then, at my first two [senior] Wimbledons, I didn’t get good results. But then, in 2010, everything changed.”
She made her breakthrough at Wimbledon when, ranked outside the top 30, Kvitova surprisingly reached the semi-finals.
She lost in straight sets to Serena Williams; but Kvitova was galvanised. “I was young and didn’t have much experience. I just went there to enjoy it and after that semi-final I knew I could do well at Wimbledon. It is my favourite tournament and I had confidence then.
“Last year the whole tournament went well. In the semis I played [Victoria] Azarenka and I had just beaten her in Madrid. I was nervous before the match but I was fine on the court. I was feeling the shots and I was calm. I think she played very well but I did better in the third set. And then the final ...”
Kvitova looks thoughtful as she recalls her emotions before that momentous event.
“The night before Sharapova I was OK. I slept well and I was thinking how it will be and what I needed to do. But it was strange just before the match. We had to wait alone. It was terrible. I was too nervous. But once I was on court I was okay. On the inside I was calm. Even on match point I was calm.”
She shrugs in amusement. “Maybe because I had three match points I could stay calm. I won the first one.”
How did she celebrate?
“I went to our house where we were staying in Southfields. We had champagne but I didn’t drink a lot. I was so tired. So I had to go to bed . . . . Everything was going round in my mind but they were happy thoughts. It was my first Grand Slam, and it was Wimbledon. Everyone wants to win Wimbledon.”
Surprisingly, Kvitova lost this week in the first round at Eastbourne. But, as the world No4 and reigning champion, she expects to mount a formidable defence of her Wimbledon title.
“For sure, Sharapova is hard to beat. The Williams sisters are also tough on grass. Anyone in the top 10 has a chance but I think I’ll be okay.”
WIMBLEDON DRAW: Selected First Round Fixtures
Women’s Singles (Top half)
1 Maria Sharapova (Rus) v Anastasia Rodionova (Aus).
Petra Martic (Cro) v 15 Sabine Lisicki (Ger)
12 Vera Zvonareva (Rus) v Mona Barthel (Ger)
Kim Clijsters (Bel) v 18 Jelena Jankovic (Ser)
Lucie Hradecka (Cze) v 8 Angelique Kerber (Ger)
3 Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) v Magdalena Rybarikova (Svk)
20 Nadia Petrova (Rus) v Q Maria Elena Camerin (Ita)
Q Camila Giorgi (Ita) 16 Flavia Pennetta (Ita)
11 Li Na (Chi) v Ksenia Pervak (Kaz)
Carla Suarez Navarro (Spa) v 5 Samantha Stosur (Aus)
Women’s Singles (Bottom half)
6 Serena Williams (US) v Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Cze)
19 Lucie Safarova (Cze) v Kiki Bertens (Net)
q Coco Vandeweghe (US) v 10-Sara Errani (Ita)
13 Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) v Klara Zakopalova (Cze)
Akgul Amanmuradova (Uzb) v 4 Petra Kvitova (Cze)
7 Caroline Wozniacki (Den) v Tamira Paszek (Aut)
Casey Dellacqua (Aus) v 9 Marion Bartoli (Fra)
14 Ana Ivanovic (Ser) v Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (Spa)
Irina Falconi (US) v 2 Victoria Azarenka (Bel)
Men’s Singles (Top half)
1 Novak Djokovic (Ser) v Juan Carlos Ferrero (Spa)
Leonardo Mayer (Arg) v 15 Juan Monaco (Arg)
12 Nicolas Almagro (Spa) v Olivier Rochus (Bel)
Tobias Kamke (Ger) v 18 Richard Gasquet (Fra)
Ernests Gulbis (Lat) v 6 Tomas Berdych (Cze)
3 Roger Federer (Swit) v Albert Ramos (Spa)
17 Fernando Verdasco (Spa) v q Jimmy Wang (Tai)
Paul-Henri Mathieu (Fra) v 13 Gilles Simon (Fra)
11 John Isner (US) v Alejandro Falla (Col)
David Nalbandian (Arg) v 8 Janko Tipsarevic (Ser)
Men’s Singles (Bottom half)
7 David Ferrer (Spa) v q Dustin Brown (Ger)
19 Kei Nishikori (Jap) v Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz)
Robin Haase (Net) v 9 Juan Martin Del Potro (Arg)
16 Marin Cilic (Cro) v Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (Ger)
Nikolay Davydenko (Rus) v 4 Andy Murray (Brit)
5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) v w Lleyton Hewitt (Aus)
20 Bernard Tomic (Aus) v w David Goffin (Bel)
Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (Spa) v 10 Mardy Fish (US)
14 Feliciano Lopez (Spa) v Jarkko Nieminen (Fin)
Thomaz Bellucci (Bra) v 2 Rafael Nadal (Spa)