published Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Kvitova defeats Sharapova to win Wimbledon women's title

WIMBLEDON, England — Petra Kvitova won her first Grand Slam title Saturday by defeating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 at Wimbledon, finishing with an ace and dropping to her knees in disbelief.

Kvitova was playing in her first major final, but it was three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova who showed her nerves. The 2004 Wimbledon winner double-faulted six times, including twice to get broken to 4-2 in the first set.

The 21-year-old Kvitova is the first left-handed woman to win Wimbledon since Martina Navratilova in 1990. Using a fast and accurate forehand, Kvitova did little wrong on Centre Court as Czech greats Navratilova and Jana Novotna sat in the Royal Box with other former Wimbledon champions.

“It’s hard to find some words if I’m standing here with the trophy and see the great players in the Royal Box,” Kvitova said. “Well, I’m so happy that I won.”

Kvitova (pronounced kuh-VIT-uh-vuh) kept Sharapova on the run with 18 winners, and never seemed to lose confidence despite being broken three times.

“Of course, I was nervous,” Kvitova said. “I thought I can win Wimbledon. But I had to focus on each point.”

Sharapova was the clear favorite. Besides winning at the All England Club in 2004, she also won the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. Shoulder surgery in October 2008 slowed her career, but she returned to the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since then at the French Open last month.

“I’ve had amazing support over so many years and to be back at this stage and holding the runner-up trophy this year is something. ... Obviously I would have wanted that big one. It’s something I’m going to be back for and I’m hoping to get again,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova had not lost a set heading into the final. But she struggled with her serve in the semifinals, double-faulting 13 times before beating German wild card Sabine Lisicki.

Sharapova won the toss at the net before the final and elected to receive, perhaps wanting time to settle in before testing her serve. Whatever the reason, it appeared a smart move because she broke for a 1-0 lead as Kvitova missed three forehands.

Sharapova then served for the first time in the next game. Although she only had one fault in five attempts, she lost four of the points to make it 1-1.

Sharapova wasted her second chance at a break in the third game. A few games later, with the score 30-30, Sharapova produced her second double-fault of the match. The third came two swings later.

Trailing 5-2, Sharapova double-faulted again to open the eighth game. But she did manage to hold and force Kvitova to serve out the set.

Kvitova broke Sharapova again in the opening game of the second set, with the Russian double-faulting for the fifth time to give the Czech a break point.

The pair twice traded breaks later in the set, but Kvitova held to win the championship dish.

“Unfortunately in tennis there’s only one winner at the end of the day and that’s what makes this tournament so special,” Sharapova said before turning her attention to Kvitova. “So big congratulations on a wonderful victory, you played a wonderful tournament.”

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