Wimbledon Ladies' Singles Champion Petra Kvitova has learned a lot in the three years since her first win here in 2011, not least how to captivate an expectant media.
Some two hours after her less-than-an-hour win in the final of Wimbledon on Saturday, Kvitova sat down for another round of questioning by the media, this time wearing a soft smile.
Almost three years to the day after her meteoric rise to tennis fame with her first-ever Grand Slam title on Centre Court at The Championships, Kvitova took the role of steady stateswoman: a player with a cause, a mission and the ability to harness expectation and craft perhaps the best tennis match she had ever played.
“Really for the first time I said, ‘Oh, my God! This is good!’” A confident Kvitova had told reporters earlier in her champion’s press conference. “I mean, a few shots were really incredible and I really couldn't believe that I made it, actually.”
In 2011, Kvitova had a hard time believing she had won this tournament, playing an almost-as-good match against a heavily-favoured Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon winner and queen of all things commercial.
But Kvitova wasn’t ready for what was to come: the hours of press, the intimate questions about her family, her life outside tennis, the on-court, in-studio and social event introductions that cried out, “Here she is! Wimbledon champion! Petraaaa Kvitovaaaaaa!”
Since that time, there were bad losses. She lost to Alexandra Dulgheru in the first round of the US Open later in 2011, struggling with her ever-present asthma. She won two games against Dominika Cibulkova to start her year in Sydney 18 months ago. She was beaten by little-known Luksika Kumkhum (“Who? Who?” Echoed the press room.) at the Australian Open this year.
But all that time there was a belief: “I can win more majors,” she told herself. “I can play world-class tennis.”
And she did for many weeks in between. She won six more titles. She was 2011’s Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. She beat players like Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams and Li Na and Sabine Lisicki.
More importantly though, she was working on her game, on herself. Petra was running as hard as she could. Training on a daily basis. Believing in herself, in her game. Petra was becoming the champion on the inside that she already was on the outside.
“Nobody can see the work I'm putting in, but I have been doing it one day after another,” Kvitova said, that soft smile still present. “It's really difficult to have to work every day. It's tough to describe what it means.”
It’s tough for Petra to describe anything in English; it doesn’t come easily to her. But when she finds the right words to express herself on a certain thread it flows, much like her monster tennis game.
“It has been up and down in the three years after winning here in 2011,” Petra said, having answered this question before. “But I got up every morning to work hard and be here again and be the Wimbledon champion.”
There was doubt until the last minute. Genie Bouchard, hard hitting and single-minded, had become Wimbledon’s chosen one. The Canadian talked a big game and often played a bigger one. Would Petra crack?
Not this time. Not in 2014. Not after three years.
“I played with the pressure every time, I was the favourite of the match and I still played well.”
Now, arms wrapped around the Venus Rosewater dish once again, there was no intimidation with the media. She knew she had to talk with Sue Barker, and then Tom Rinaldi and shake hands with members and former champions and take her trophy to show the public on that famed deck. And then there were interviews on top of interviews: newspaper reporters and radio stations and TV feeds and digital hits and stand up and sit down and “Petra! How did you do it?”
“I'm enjoying this more than my first one,” she said, shrugging. “This year I'm more satisfied with what I've done. I've put in a lot of work. Not everyone believed in me that I could win a Grand Slam again.”
She credits her coach, her trainer, her sports psychologist. And then she credits pressure. Yes, pressure. She credits herself.
“I love to play finals. I love to play on the big stadium. This is something really special,” she said, a Wimbledon champion – again. “I mean, it's not feeling as a tournament for me. It's something more, more, more. My stomach is a little bit funny. It just ... goosebumps.”
Goosebumps, indeed. But now, more media. No problem, right Petra?
“[Media] was very hard three years ago. It is hard today, as well,” Petra said, causing a laugh in the room of journalists, an easy crowd. “But if I won, I can do this. This was something new for me to do in 2011 after winning Wimbledon. Today, I will not change it for anything.”
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
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