Kvitova is back at the All England Club 12 months on from her shock victory over Maria Sharapova in the finals last year
LONDON: Defending champion Petra Kvitova admits she has only just come to terms with the life-changing experience of winning Wimbledon.Kvitova is back at the All England Club 12 months on from her shock victory over Maria Sharapova in the final and the Czech is finally beginning to understand how different life becomes in the aftermath of such a memorable achievement.
The 22-year-old had never even appeared in a grand slam final before beating Sharapova and was hardly known outside her own country.
Everything changed thanks to her remarkably composed straight sets win over Sharapova and initially the whirlwind of publicity and increased expectations proved too much for Kvitova.She crashed out in the first round of the next grand slam, at the US Open, and is yet to win a WTA title this year.
Sharapova has also avenged that Wimbledon loss with two successive semi-final wins over Kvitova at the Australian and French Opens.But the Czech is convinced she has a much better grip on her life again now and she expects to mount a strong defence of the Wimbledon title.
“After winning Wimbledon everything changes as a player,” Kvitova said. “Inside I’m still the same person as before the Wimbledon win, but I’m more famous in the Czech Republic and around the world now.“The people recognize me everywhere. In the beginning that was very strange for me. Now it’s much better and I know that it’s part of our life, so I’m okay.”
As well as the changes off-court, Kvitova noticed a big increase in the effort levels of her opponents after Wimbledon as they tried to take the scalp of a grand slam champion.That was a tough obstacle to surmount at first, but she is aware of the dangers of underestimating players now.
“After winning Wimbledon everything changes as a player,” she said. “The tournaments after the players want to beat me more.“It was same with me when I was 60 in the world and I had my best game against the top 10 players.“This changed things a little bit for me. It will be same here and it won’t be a surprise now.”
Kvitova will be firmly in the spotlight when she steps on Centre Court on Tuesday to start the defence of her title with her parents watching on as guests in the Royal Box.She is determined not to let the occasion get to her, although it might be harder for her father.“Yes, I’m sure he might cry. It’s going to be emotional for them,” Kvitova said.
“I’m trying to not thinking about defending the title here, even though I’m sure it will come to my mind when I step on the court.“I’m very honored to be here as a champion. It’s something that lasts forever.“I think the pressure is there, for sure, but I will try not to think about it when I’m on the court.”
Kvitova’s preparations for Wimbledon suffered a setback when she was beaten by Ekaterina Makarova in the first round of the grass-court event at Eastbourne.But she remains confident that a lack of match practice on grass won’t stop her going deep into the second week at Wimbledon.
“My preparation wasn’t as good as I would liked. I lost too early at Eastbourne,” she said.“But it was my first match on the grass. I know it’s not really perfect. So I will try to play better here.“I still feel good and I can’t wait to step on the court again.”