Kvitova's Attitude Impresses Navratilova
Published February 03, 2012 04:35
On July 7, 1978, Martina Navratilova defeated Chris Evert on Wimbledon's Centre Court to win the first of 18 Grand Slam titles. Thirty-three years later, another Czech-born 21-year-old, Petra Kvitova, chose the same stage to announce herself to the tennis world with a straight set upset of former champion Maria Sharapova.
Kvitova's composure during this rites of passage moment marked her out to many as a potential multiple-Slam winner and future standard bearer for the women's game. And among those earmarking her for greatness is none other than Navratilova.
"The book on Petra is power everywhere," Navratilova said at last week's Australian Open. "She can change the direction of the ball really well on both the backhand and the forehand. She also has a great serve and mixes it up well."
This serve was one of the cornerstones of her Wimbledon triumph - she hit a tournament-leading 36 aces - and, according to Navratilova, a fellow left-hander, its potency owes as much to the variety of delivery as it does to the power.
"She's all over the service box, mixing it up almost 50% forehand, 50% backhand. She's got the big lefty serve out wide so you have to guard against the slice, but there is also the flat down the T in the ad court or out wide in the deuce court. She's got the kick serve on the second as well as the slice, so huge variety on the serve," Navratilova said.
However, just as crucial as any technical aspect of Kvitova's game, is her attitude, both on and off the court. And the World No.2's newfound ability to cast memories of fluffed forehands and duff volleys to the back of her mind and refocus is a trait that makes her standout from many of her peers.
"Her attitude is fantastic and she's always really fired up from the get-go," Navratilova added. "Today she hit a whiff on the overhead… shanked like six balls in a row, but got it together and held serve. And when it's 30-all, she comes up with a big serve.
"In years past, and even last year, she would lose those matches or lose her concentration. But now she gets it back together. She's tough - I'm glad I'm not the on the other side of the net!"
This toughness was evident for all to see at the back end of last season; after winning Wimbledon, Kvitova suffered a string of early tournament exits, but any whispers that her All-England Club triumph was a flash in the pan were silenced emphatically as she closed the season with 12 straight victories and three more trophies, including the WTA Championships and Fed Cup.
After last year's achievements, Kvitova could have been forgiven for resting on her laurels somewhat during the off-season. But success has given her the taste of life in the winner's circle and, hungry for more, she embarked on a grueling training schedule in November and December.
"She's extremely fit now," Navratilova said. "She had an amazing off season program and it's paying off. Her footwork is so much better than it was a year ago, and she wants to win badly. She's not worried about the ranking, she just wants to be the best tennis player she can be and that's a great attitude."
While this work could not quite help Kvitova go all the way in Australia, Navratilova's assessment suggests that semifinal heartbreak - she was two games away from defeating Sharapova - will make her more determined than ever to go one better next time around.