WIMBLEDON, England — Unknown no more, Petra Kvitova is a Wimbledon champion.
The 21-year-old Czech, who has worked her way up the rankings from 34th at the end of last season to No. 7, beat Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the women’s final Saturday. And moments after finishing the match with an ace and dropping to her knees in celebration, Kvitova giggled when she saw her name etched in gold on the winner’s board inside the All England Club.
“I don’t know about this, still. It’s still (an) unbelievable feeling,” said Kvitova, who was playing in her first Grand Slam final. “Maybe I’ll accept it after, I don’t know, some days.”
Kvitova is the first left-handed woman to win the Wimbledon title since Martina Navratilova in 1990. And it was the nine-time champion who was giving her two thumbs up from her seat in the Royal Box as she was accepting well-wishes from anyone that could get her attention.
“She played brave tennis and she deserved to win. She was by far the better player,” said Navratilova, who was born and raised in Czechoslovakia. “It didn’t happen overnight, but she’s a champion. It’s great.”
Kvitova is only the third Czech woman to win the title at the All England Club, following Navratilova and Jana Novotna. Both were in the Royal Box, along with a host of other former champions. And both congratulated her after the match.
“I cried after I met them,” Kvitova said.
Kvitova used a fast-paced and well-placed forehand to keep Sharapova on the run, finishing the match with 19 winners.
“She was hitting really powerful and hitting winners from all over the court. She made a defensive shot into an offensive one,” Sharapova said. “She was just more aggressive than I was, hit deeper and harder, and got the advantage in the points.”
While the more experienced Sharapova was worried about her serve and how she was playing after it, Kvitova went into the match believing in her chances. She lost to eventual champion Serena Williams in last year’s semifinals.
“Last year was like I hadn’t many chances to win. Serena played so well,” Kvitova said. “I was young and I didn’t think that I can beat her.
“Today, I felt that I can.”