By Blair Henley | Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Don't call her a one-Slam wonder! Petra Kvitova is showing signs of consistency that could propel her from a top-10 player to a legitimate contender for the No. 1 ranking.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
When Petra Kvitova captured the 2011 Wimbledon title, she was an unknown quantity, existing largely under the pro tennis radar. Kvitova’s lefty serve was lethal on the grass that year, allowing her to dismantle Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Even her celebratory post-point shriek gave the more experienced Sharapova a run for her money.
Kvitova would remain a fixture in the top 10 after her Wimbledon win, tallying multiple titles including a WTA Championship crown. But inconsistent Grand Slam results and a quiet personality prevented her from capitalizing on that initial Wimbledon success.
Fast-forward to her second Grand Slam title just months ago, again on the grass of the All England Club. Petra, which means rock or stone, lived up to her name with an airtight performance against Genie Bouchard in the final. In addition to proving she was more than a one-Slam wonder, improved English skills and a fun, witty social media persona have allowed tennis addicts a glimpse of the 24-year-old's understated charm.
We caught up with the world No. 4 as she arrived in New York to talk about her sense of humor, sports psychologist and lefty advantage.
Are you trying to catch up on rest after such a quick turnaround from New Haven?
I have not really had a good night’s rest, but on the other side, I didn’t sleep at Wimbledon in the second week because my mind was still going. You’re replaying good shots and how you did that day. The last couple of weeks, I’m not sleeping very well.
If someone said you would win Wimbledon after losing in the first round of the Australian Open in January, would you have believed them?
Not really. It’s something that you really can’t expect. It’s the beauty of our sport. You don’t know how it’s going to be the next day or next week. Every week it’s a new challenge. We are finding some form through the year. If someone had told me I was going to win Wimbledon after that very bad loss in the first round in Australia, I would not have believed them at all (laughs).
After watching you play Bouchard in the Wimbledon final as well as Sam Stosur in New Haven, I’m curious what it must feel like to be in that zone where everything is clicking.
If I’m in the zone, I’m not really thinking that I’m in the zone. It’s very tough to describe. I’m focusing on every point, every shot. Sometimes [the zone] has happened and then other times, I’m missing it, so it’s more difficult then (laughs). Of course, that’s something I work on with my mental coach. It’s something that you can learn a little bit, but still it’s better if you were born with it (smiling).
How long have you been working with a sports psychologist?
He went to the French Open and Wimbledon. We are in our fourth year together, but he doesn’t [always] travel. He went to the year-end championships last year and this year the Grand Slams.
How important is he in your development?
Some people don’t really understand why this person is needed, but on the other side, in this level, it’s the small things that make a difference. This is one of them. It’s not something that you have to hide. It’s a part of your team, and it’s very hard work. It’s not like you are going to hit forehands for two hours and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. With the mental [side], it’s much more difficult.
Your fitness seems to have improved over the last several years. How has that evolved over time?
I do more running than I did before. I do more long distances. It’s very important. Tennis is improving so quickly, so you can’t really spend time doing nothing.
American fans are still getting to know you, but what is the fan attention like when you go home to the Czech Republic?
It is not crazy, but when I’m walking somewhere, people recognize me and come to me and it’s a little weird. I’m the person who is more calm and quiet and not really open in these moments, but of course, if someone asks me for a signature or picture, it’s always easy. It’s not as crazy in Prostejov where I am normally practicing. They are getting used to it. Tomas Berdych is living there as well, so it’s not that crazy.
You seem to have quite the sense of humor. Do you have a favorite joke?
No, I’m not really good with the jokes (laughs).
So you just have quick wit?
I do, yeah. If I’m in a good mood, yeah, I do (laughs).
Your Twitter profile says you’re always smiling, but is there anything that just drives you crazy?
I don’t like it when somebody tells me who I’m meeting in the fourth round of a Grand Slam. I’m just starting on the first round and then step by step, but if someone told me who I’m meeting in the quarterfinals, I’m like, “Oh my gosh! You do not understand, do you?" This is not great.
Do you think that happy disposition helps you get over disappointments?
It takes awhile to get over bad losses, but it’s a part of our life. Sometimes it’s okay. When I lost in Montreal, I was okay in two hours, but in a Grand Slam it’s more difficult.
Is there something you do that always helps brighten your day after a loss?
Spending time with my friends is always important for me. To be back on the court and fighting to be back again is always important as well.
Being a lefty has its advantages. I assume you know how to exploit those?
Yes, I know how to use it (laughs). It is an advantage probably, especially on the grass on the serve. If you’re playing a rally, it’s not that big of a difference, but with the serve it’s unusual. Sometimes at the beginning of the match, the opponent has a little bit of trouble. I think there are a lot of lefties on the tour now, so I think the opponents are getting used to it as well.
But you enjoy using that spin to mess with people?
I do (laughs)!