Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stand aside, Princess, and behold The Queen

Last night, I set my alarm to make sure I would be up with all my morning tasks done and my breakfast ready so that I wouldn't miss a moment of today's Wimbledon singles final. I didn't want to miss a moment, especially because I was expecting a straight-sets win. With all respect for Bouchard as a very strong up-and-coming player, I felt that she had reached the final on a wave of good luck--that a recovered Angelique Kerber would have very likely beaten her, and that an injury-free Simona Halep would certainly have.

There were multiple predictions that Petra Kivota would "go off" and open the door for the Canadian to win her first major. But Kvitova had lived through the Venus Williams match, and had been put through her paces by the Zahlavova Strycova match and the Lucie Safarova first set. And she had "that look"--the one she had in 2011.

Before I went to sleep, I wondered idly how many games Bouchard would win and whether there might be some long, drawn-out, multiple-deuce games that would bring some tension to the championship match.

Some time during the night, when I was in a restless, impaired state of sleep--and get ready because now it gets strange--I dreamed I saw a scoreboard on a lawn. On it was written 6-3, 6-0. I woke up with a vague memory of this symbol, and went about feeding the cats and making coffee. When Kvitova won the first set 6-3, I felt a bit giddy. Could this really be happening? Not the victory, but the score.

The answer was a resounding "yes."

On Thursday, Chris Evert, doing commentary on ESPN, said she thought Bouchard would win the title. A day later, she backed up a bit, stating that Bouchard's inexperience might be a factor, in spite of what many were expecting from her. By this morning, at the "Breakfast at Wimbledon" broadcast, Evert (perhaps having chatted with Pam Shriver) was pointing out that it was Kvitova's tournament stats that were outstanding, not Bouchard's.

Standing in the tunnel with her bouquet of flowers, Kvitova looked serene. Her expression never changed during the next 55 minutes, during which she played a championship match that exceeded perhaps even my expectations. The Czech had only two significantly "off" moments. One came in the fifth game of the first set, when she had multiple opportunities to break Bouchard for a second time, but wasted all of them with sloppy shots. The second came when Kvitova failed to win the first set when she served for it the first time, at 5-2.

Shaky Petra can spiral down after missing big opportunities like that, but Champion Petra doesn't let it bother her. She held her serve, and then broke Bouchard for the second time. Kvitova was broken back when Bouchard took advantage of the only break point she would see in the entire match. But then the Czech broke again on her third break point, and won the first set.

Kvitova began the second set by holding at love and then breaking Bouchard. The script had been written, and Kvitova would not divert from it again. She blasted her way through the second set, winning with 90% of her first serves and 67% of her second serves. As I wrote yesterday,  when she's in form, Kivtova's second serve isn't terribly vulnerable; but for this match, she won with her first serve 82% of the time.

Kvitova hit 28 winners and made only twelve unforced errors. Her average first serve speed was 106 mph. Her ability to find the most wicked of angles reached its peak. She was merciless when attacking her opponent's second serves.

There were a few exciting rallies. In the fourth game of the first set, with Kvitova serving, there were two deuces. Kvitova got the ad point with an ace (one of four she hit in the championship match), and what followed was a thrilling, defense-heavy rally, which Kvitova won with a ridiculous backhand cross-court volley.

Again, in the fourth game of the second set, there was another long rally which thrilled the crowd and which was won by Kvitova, bringing the game to deuce. Two points later, Kvitova was up 4-0. After that game, the 2011 champion held at love, then broke Bouchard on her first break point.

It was over. Kvitova fell backwards onto the court, covered her face, then rose for the handshake and her run into the stands to greet her team. The roof was closed because of fear that the oncoming showers would dampen the trophy ceremony. There had been some talk about closing the roof earlier, but it didn't happen.

In 2011, when Kvitova tried to make her way down the halls and through the mob of All England Lawn Club members (and ultimately, to the balcony to show the crowds her trophy), she was stopped by Wimbledon staff and told she could not enter. Someone actually had to tell the staff members to let her through--that she had just won Wimbledon.

This year, no one tried to stop her. The crowds were waiting in the rain, somewhat encumbered by having to hold both umbrellas and cameras, and the 2014 Wimbledon champion stood on the balcony with the Venus Rosewater dish while the rain fell on her and the fans screamed their appreciation.

Genie Bouchard is a stand-out member of the new generation of WTA players. She has made it to the semifinals of the last three majors and is the first Canadian to ever play in a major final. She and all of her siblings were named after royalty, and she has a nickname of "Princess." But for all her admirable aggression, talent and mental toughness, today, Bouchard was blown off the court by a woman who--when she frees her mind--can rule almost any court.

It's been 22 years since a Wimbledon finalist won only three games (Monica Seles, of all people, who lost in straight sets to Steffi Graf). Kvitova's masterful performance today silenced the majority of the tennis press, who--during the past week--had turned into a non-singing version of the Genie Army.

It's good to be Queen.


sunny nine said...

a master class on grass.

Deep angles, short angles. Flat, deep, powerful strokes. Even great gets on a couple of points. Too many weapons. Too good.

Diane said...

Too. barking. good.

Brave Man said...

I'm not one given to braggadocio. But I'll do it for a second today. I called it here before the tournament began, when not one pundit did, although Diane did want Petra to win. Diane replied to my post: "Brave Man!"

Doug said...

Diane, this is by far the best commentary anywhere. Love from me to you for everyone!

Diane said...

You've earned your bragging rights, Doug.

After she beat Venus, it really did look great for Petra, and I was shaking my head over how few members of the tennis press picked up on it. (Credit to Pam Shriver for picking up on it and never letting it go.)

When they started predicting a straight-set win for Bouchard, I was dumbfounded.

The thing about the press is that they make something up and then they believe it because they keep hearing the stuff they made up. After the final today, ESPN commentators gave these long, flowery speeches on Bouchard (if you'd just tuned in, you would have assumed that she won the championship) because, I guess, by then--they had to own their own rhetoric.

Genie Bouchard deserves a lot of credit for her year and for the rate of her progress, but the "group think" idea that she was going to beat a frighteningly in-form Kvitova was a bit delusional (and typical).

I thought Kvitova and Halep stood the best chance of winning. (Sharapova seems to be cursed at Wimbledon.) I'm sorry that Halep was injured, but that's another story for another time.

Diane said...

Oh, thank you, Doug :)

Dougy said...

Diane, what you wrote bears repetition, so here it is:

"The thing about the press is that they make something up and then they believe it because they keep hearing the stuff they made up. After the final today, ESPN commentators gave these long, flowery speeches on Bouchard (if you'd just tuned in, you would have assumed that she won the championship) because, I guess, by then--they had to own their own rhetoric."

Bobby Skipsey said...

The post prior to this one is a great refutation of pragmatism, according to which the truth is "Whatever your contemporaries let you get away with." (Richard Rorty, chief American Pragmatist, Princeton prof). As if a consensus determines what reality is. Here, REALITY did not let them get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Petra was so dialed in that she did not have to demonstrate her terrific touch and volleying skills, nor her no-man's land prowess. Absolutely stunning performance.

Sabey said...

I am devastated I was not able to watch this final. I am hoping for an encore from tennis channel. Way to go Petra!

Diane said...

Oh, they'll show it again--no doubt about that, Sabey. Sorry you didn't get to see it.