What made it all the more remarkable was that Bouchard did not play badly. In two sets, she made four unforced errors. She served a couple of double faults. She pressed from time to time, searching for solutions that were available. But she was overwhelmed by the shotmaking genius of Kvitova, who was driving the ball so majestically off both wings that she could not be contained. Bouchard did her best to maintain her aggressive court positioning, to keep standing up on the baseline. She refused to give away much ground. But every return was coming back at her so swiftly that Bouchard could hardly breathe. Kvitova was measuring her shots impeccably, finding unimaginable angles off the backhand, getting extraordinary depth on her down the middle returns, timing nearly all of her shots magnificently.
Kvitova made only 12 unforced errors despite her unrelenting aggression. She produced 28 winners, 20 more than her determined yet outclassed adversary. There were only 98 points played in this brief contest, so releasing that many winning shots was a remarkable feat. The serving statistics are even more revealing. Bouchard has a very respectable first serve. Her average first serve speed was 99 MPH, and her second serve average was 85 MPH. But the 20-year-old Canadian was ceaselessly under siege. She won only 46% of her first serve points and 36% of her second. Kvitova took 82% of her first serve points and was down at 38% on second serve points, but that was misleading; in the second set she won 4 of 6 points (67%) on the second serve.
This was one of the finest displays I have ever seen in a final on this court. Bouchard has nothing to be ashamed about because she came out determined to be aggressive, competed well, tried to find a way out of a terrible bind, and never wavered. Kvitova was often breathtaking. It lasted 55 minutes, which made this the shortest womens Wimbledon final since Martina Navratilova demolished Andrea Jaeger 6-0, 6-3 in 1983. The shortest final round clash of the modern era on the British grass was Kings rout of Goolagong in 1975, which lasted only 38 minutes.
Lets examine the details of the Kvitova-Bouchard collision. The No. 6 seed came out of the gates purposefully and powerfully, clearly wanting to make this a day that was reminiscent of her only previous Grand Slam tournament final on the same court three years earlier, when she halted Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4. The 24-year-old from the Czech Republic was primed for this battle, although Bouchard was no less committed to starting with vigor.
Bouchard made it to 30-15 by taking Kvitovas backhand crosscourt return and redirecting it down the line off the forehand for a winner. That was evidence of Bouchards determination to not be pushed around. The No. 13 seed Bouchard held at 30, sending a 102 MPH first serve into the body, drawing a backhand return error from her opponent. Bouchard had opened the encounter ably, putting five of six first serves in, holding for 1-0. Kvitova answered emphatically, starting with an ace for 15-0, holding at 15 with a well-directed 112 first serve down the T that was unreturnable. It was 1-1, and Kvitova had her bearings.
Bouchard had a 30-0 lead in the third game, but Kvitova kept firing away with those scorching returns. She took three points in a row before Bouchard rallied for deuce, but Kvitova soon earned a second break point. She converted, sending one of those trademark deep returns down the middle to set up a forehand winner. Kvitova had made the first move, breaking for 2-1. The fourth game was well played by both competitors. Kvitova led 40-15 and then double faulted. Bouchard reached deuce with a scintillating backhand down the line return that was unanswerable. But Kvitova followed with an ace down the T, and then made one of her most sparkling shots of the match. Stretched wide on her backhand, she sliced a passing shot winner spectacularly out of Bouchards reach. That inspiring moment took Kvitova to 3-1, and she never really looked back.
And yet, Bouchard fought on admirably. She double faulted to fall behind 15-40 but held on for 2-3 after three deuces. Kvitova was not shaken by that stand from Bouchard. The left-hander soared to 40-0 in the sixth game, double faulted, but held commandingly at 15 for 4-2 with another gorgeous backhand crosscourt winner. Bouchard did not know where to serve or how to keep Kvitova at bay. It did not seem to matter if she sent her deliveries to the forehand or the backhand, wide or into the body. Kvitova was poised to lace her returns off both sides, and she did so again in the seventh game. With Bouchard down 15-40, Kvitova stuck with a winning pattern, driving a deep return down the middle again, opening up an avenue for a forehand winner.
It was 5-2 for Kvitova, and she had the luxury of a two break lead. Serving for the set, Kvitova was broken at 15 as Bouchard raised chalk with a backhand passing shot down the line winner for 15-40. But Bouchard was unable to hold in the ninth game. She trailed 0-40, made it back to 30-40, but Kvitova sealed it on her third set point with a thundering forehand crosscourt return drawing a backhand mistake from Bouchard. Set to Kvitova, 6-3.
Kvitova was clearly feeling unbeatable now. She opened the second set with an ace down the T at 109 MPH, and held at love for 1-0. Bouchard was broken at 30 in the second game. Serving at 2-0, Kvitova rolled to 40-15 but Bouchard drew level at deuce. Kvitova located her serve perfectly on the next point, slicing her first delivery down the T to force a backhand return error from Bouchard. Kvitova moved to 3-0 with an ace down the T, raising chalk with that accurate serve.
Bouchard got to 40-15 in the fourth game, but Kvitova secured four points in a row to reach 4-0. Her returns were crackling in that stretch. Her timing was immaculate. Her execution was sound. Her mindset was ideal for such a big occasion.
Kvitova promptly held at love for 5-0, releasing two more winners in that game. The 2011 champion was on the verge of capturing a second title on the Centre Court, and with the skies darkening she was utterly determined to finish off her task swiftly. Bouchard was showered with sympathetic applause by the capacity crowd when she drove a forehand winner into the clear for 30-30, but her journey was about to conclude. A crosscourt forehand from Kvitova coaxed a netted backhand from Bouchard, and then the contest concluded on a high note. Kvitova sent a two-hander crosscourt for another dazzling winner, fashioning victory in 55 minutes.
And so Kvitova has raised her record to 2-0 in Grand Slam tournament finals, taking her second three years after her first. Why did it take so long? Here is an immensely gifted player, a sparkling shotmaker who can beat anyone in the world on any given day, a woman who has the propensity to win at least a few more majors if she puts everything she has into fulfilling her talent.
After her triumph today, Kvitova said, I was really up and down after my title here in 2011. I was still working hard [trying] to believe in myself. My team believed in me as well. We did a good job and Im just glad I have it for a second time.
The hope here is that Kvitova will buckle down diligently and go after more major prizes at full force over the next couple of years. She needs to discover a way to add much more consistency to her game, to win on the days when her best and biggest shots are not really there. Kvitova added later, I love to play finals. I love to play on the big stadium. This is something really special.
It is entirely possible that Petra Kvitova might never quite replicate this performance for the rest of her career. She bordered on the sublime for nearly an hour, and played stupendously. But the fact remains that she could still win more Grand Slam events, and she should. Kvitova needs to take some time to reflect on this gratifying victory, to sit back and evaluate it thoughtfully, to figure out why it happened and what it might take to put herself back in contention at more majors between now and 2017. Since 2011, she had her share of good showings at the majors, reaching two semifinals at the Grand Slam events in 2012 and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. A year ago she was a quarterfinalist again at Wimbledon.
She has done reasonably well these last few years, but the fact remains that she should be accomplishing more. The feeling grows that she will turn over a new leaf in the near future and start targeting the biggest tournaments with more clarity, determination and conviction. Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova can celebrate not only her second major championship victory but also the single greatest tennis match she has played in her storied career. She won this Wimbledon as stylishly at it can be done.
<Steve Flink has been reporting on tennis since 1974. He has been a columnist for tennischannel.com since 2007. You can purchase Steve’s latest book “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” here.
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