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Kvitova overcomes a nervy start

by Kate Battersby
Tuesday 26 June 2012

When you are the reigning Wimbledon champion and your parents are
invited in to the Royal Box to witness the opening of your defence,
probably you would rather not have the nervy start endured by Petra
Kvitova on Centre Court today. She came dangerously close to a 0-4
deficit to Akgul Amanmuradova, before bouncing back with just a few
more stutters in the second set – and a rain delay for good measure –
to defeat the world no.96 6-4, 6-4 in 81 minutes.

The necessary mantle of superstardom which comes with winning the
sport’s premier title is not yet one which Kvitova wears with absolute
comfort. She is still startled to find herself at all famous, and in
return it is probably fair to say that quite a few of those who came
through Wimbledon’s gates today might not have been able to name
immediately the defending ladies’ champion. Rather sweetly, Kvitova
herself sees no particular reason why she should permanently forsake
driving the Skoda she favoured before she lifted the Venus Rosewater
Dish here 12 months ago – and in the opening games of her first round
match today, she was missing the lines by such a margin that her
tennis was more jumpy Skoda than smooth-revving limousine.

Perhaps it is as well to remember that 12 months ago the left-hander
opened what would turn out to be her Championship campaign on the
comparatively humble environs of Court 15. In her opening games of
2012 on the legendary Centre Court turf, the 22-year-old No.4 seed was
well and truly out of sorts.

Appearing tense on her return to SW19, she could not find her touch at all.
By contrast the 6ft 3in Amanmuradova – who had lost in the first round in
all four of her previous appearances at the All England Club – settled in like an
old hand and in no time had held, broken Kvitova at a stroll and held
again.

But a key moment came after the Czech netted again from a less than
sizzling return to give 30-40 and a point for a double break. On this
pivotal point Amanmuradova sent the ball down the line only to hear it
called out – and she chose not to challenge, even though the call must
have been finely judged. Kvitova delivered another wild stroke at the
net for a further break point, but thereafter served her way out of
trouble. At 2-4 she took her attack up a gear, forcing errors from the
Uzbekistan player to break back. Kvitova greeted it with a clenched
fist and a glance at her coach David Kotyza in the players’ box,
rather than her parents Jiri and Pavla Kvita in the Royal Box.

Now finding the lines which had so eluded her in those early games,
Kvitova saw Amanmuradova net a backhand to give her another break for
4-5, and took the set without further drama. Breaking early in the
second, she looked all set to coast through from there to victory. But
perhaps giving a clue as to why she is the only top 10 player this
year who has not made a final in any tournament, she stuttered again.
At 2-1 she lost her touch to create the longest game of the match. It
went to four deuces and Kvitova gifted her 28-year-old opponent a
break point, although Amanmuradova threw it away with a vastly overhit
lob. As clouds gathered, the crisis passed – but on Kvitova’s first
match point rain began to fall and she missed the shot. With the score
at 5-3 and deuce, play was halted for half an hour. When they came
back Amanmuradova did well to hold. But Kvitova ended the match as
emphatically as she began it timidly, delivering three successive aces
before taking the win at her first opportunity.

“It’s very different coming back this time,” admitted Kvitova
afterwards. “I was nervous. It’s the first time for me being here as
defending champion, and it was a huge honour to be on Centre Court. It
was difficult to know what to expect of myself and of my opponent. A
lot of firsts for me today. I stayed calm inside and I’m happy with
that.”


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