TEBBUTT: SECOND TO THE BEST
The hopes of a nation for a first ever Grand Slam singles champion were dashed by Petra Kvitova’s virtuoso 6-3, 6-0 win over Eugenie Bouchard in the women’s Wimbledon final on Saturday.
The woman on the losing end succinctly summed up what happened in a surprisingly one-sided 55 minutes of tennis on the Centre Court. “When a player’s on fire like that,” Bouchard said, “there’s not much you can do.”
After a one-directional match much like Roger Federer’s tidy three-set victory over Milos Raonic on Saturday, Bouchard could only offer kudos to her 24-year-old Czech opponent for her consistent, concussive hitting. “She has weapons,” Bouchard said about Kvitova. “We know that when she’s on, she’s very tough to beat, especially on this surface. I just give her credit. She deserved to win today.”
Mother Julie Leclair concurred, saying, “when she (Kvitova) plays like that, she could have beaten anyone.”
In yesterday’s blog, it was noted that the longer Bouchard was able to extend the rallies, the more chance she would have a chance to win points, and the match.
On Saturday, 87 of the 98 points were concluded in four or fewer shots – with Kvitova winning 52 of those.
She just kept hitting rocket forehands and backhands that skimmed the net and were on Bouchard before she had a chance to get set.
“I did what David (Kotyza, her coach) told me,” a happy Kvitova said at her post-match media conference, “that I really have to go for every shot, to not really give her time for her game.”
It was a truly sublime display of first-strike, take-no-prisoners tennis from Kvitova. Tennis observers have known she was capable of some of the biggest hitting this side of Serena Williams since her Wimbledon win in 2011, but it was not been in evidence that often in the intervening three years.
While she was winning just six tournaments over that period, Williams was busy racking up 21 titles.
Kvitova admitted she felt she was “in the zone” Saturday, saying she first sensed it after hitting a glorious backhand cross-court slice winner to take a 3-1 lead in the first set. She added that she feared she might slip out of the zone in the second set but she was able to inhabit it for the required additional 23 minutes.
The winners count – a stat Bouchard had dominated throughout the tournament – was a remarkable 28 to 8 in Kvitova’s favour.
It was one of those days when the well-worn “too good” was the operative phrase.
In the BBC commentary box, John McEnroe said, “she (Kvitova) she should just watch tapes of this the rest of her life. Whatever Bouchard tries, it doesn’t work out at all.”
Regarding, in retrospect, what she might have done differently, Bouchard said, “I felt like a few times, when she was a bit off balance, I was a bit hesitant. Maybe I would try to just go for those a little bit more.
“I didn’t have any answers on court. I think that’s the bottom line.”
Tracy Austin, a hard-working, astute commentator and a two-time US Open champion, added her thoughts, saying, “today was all about Petra Kvitova. I hope that nobody writes that Genie Bouchard was overwhelmed by the moment and didn’t play well. In my opinion, Petra Kvitova was absolutely imposing her game with the first shot – the big serve, the great returns and her ground strokes were laser-like, so deep and so hard. At one point in the match Genie Bouchard looked a little rattled – like ‘what should I do?’ And for someone that we’ve been so impressed with leading up to the finals, the composure, always staying calm, playing the big points so well, Kvitova just didn’t let her get into the match – 28 winners with just 12 unforced errors.”
Princess Eugenie (in dark hair above), whom Bouchard was named after, was in the Royal Box. Also in the stands were Bouchard’s two sisters – her twin Beatrice as well as the younger Charlotte – who had flown in from Montreal for the match. Bouchard had said at her previous press conference that she liked her team and supporters to be at an event from start to finish, not to arrive late or leave early. But she saw the sisters before the match. They were not hidden from her to prevent a distraction.
“In late January, right after the Australian Open where she reached the semi-final, Bouchard flew with all-time great Chris Evert to do publicity in Singapore for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals to be held there in late October.
She was ranked No. 19 at the time and some people thought it was a bit presumptuous having her there to promote an event she might not qualify for.
Now, with a ranking of No. 7, and at No. 4 in the Race for those WTA Finals, Bouchard looks like exactly right player to have been in Singapore promoting the year-end finale.
It’s remarkable that Bouchard has come so far in just six Grand Slam main draws since losing 7-6(7), 7-6(6) to No. 223 Daria Gavrilova in the second round of the 2013 Australian Open qualifying (above). She was ranked No. 162 at the time. Gavrilova, also aged 20, now ranks No. 343.
Bouchard’s next event is in Washington the week of July 28th followed by the Rogers Cup in Montreal and then Cincinnati before the US Open.
“I’m disappointed with the loss today,” an admirably composed Bouchard said. “But I will realize how far I’ve come this year already and appreciate the hard work I’ve put in and really believe I can be at the top level of the game. That will give me motivation.
“I think I’ll look back and I’ll be okay.”
BIG “W” DOUBLES TITLE FOR POSPISIL & SOCK
In was one of the best, and best-attended, doubles finals in Wimbledon history, Vasek Pospisil and his American partner Jack Sock won the title with a memorable 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory over top seeds and defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan on Saturday.
“The atmosphere was great,” said Bob Bryan who had won three previous Wimbledons (2013, 2011, 2006) with his twin brother. “Third match of the day – the first ones were blow-outs (ladies singles and ladies doubles finals). The place was packed. Everyone was looking for a competitive match and they got one.”
It was a first Grand Slam title for the 24-year-old Pospisil and a second – he won the 2011 US Open mixed with Melanie Oudin – for Sock, 21.
At a good-humoured, relaxed media conference in the late evening, Sock said, “that one, with Melanie at such a young age (Oudin 19 and Sock 18), we did it three years ago – obviously was another surreal moment.”
He was being tactful. Clearly a men’s doubles title means more. “Like we’ve both said,” he continued with a smile while sitting beside Pospisil, “Wimbledon is the tournament that any tennis player, any young tennis player, dreams of playing and dreams of winning one day. It might get it by just a notch.”
The Bryans were down after the loss. “We’ve been in 26 Grand Slam finals and we’ve lost 11 of them,” said Mike. “Those are daggers. But we usually bounce back.”
The match was played indoors with the retractable roof close after showers developed after the Petra Kvitova – Eugenie Bouchard women’s final. “The roof closed playing an indoor match made their serves go from great to really awesome,” Bob said about Pospisil and Sock. “They made a bunch of aces. We didn’t have many looks.”
Bob Bryan gave an interesting take on the fact that Pospisil and Sock were playing together for the first time, a move initiated by Sock several weeks ago when Pospisil’s back woes made their participation uncertain. “That happens a lot,” Bob said about first-time success. “The honeymoon period is sometimes hard to stop. We’ve faced it many times. Guys playing together for the first time are really excited. They have great runs. Everything is fresh and new.”
The Pospisil – Sock success could very well propel them into the year-end ATP World Tour Finals in November in London. In a totally sarcastic response with a big smile on his face, Pospisil reacted to that information with a “that’s really disappointing. I wish you hadn’t reminded me of that.”
Pospisil and Sock have really only known each other for about two years, but have developed very good chemistry on and off the court. Sock hit a sensational inside/out forehand down-the-line winner on the pair’s fifth match point to seal the victory and Pospisil later joked about his highlight of the match, “the best part today was not having to hit anything on match point – just watching the ball go in the court. Seeing Jack run around and crush it down-the-line.”
Both players tossed their racquets in the air at the moment of victory, embraced, shook hands with the Bryans at the net and then bounded about the court, interspersed with more embraces. It was a joyful scene and they then threw towels into the crowd with Pospisil getting a laugh when he pretended he was going to launch his whole racquet bag.
“We had a lot of fun,” Sock said. “People could see that. I think that’s part of why we did well. We really enjoyed being out there, enjoyed the moment.”
Pospisil added, “we were complimenting each other extremely well throughout the tournament. That’s why we got to the final. We’re a dangerous team.”
At that point the merriment in the room got merrier when Pospisil lost his train of thought. “I don’t know what I’m saying right now – we’re Wimbledon champions!”
Sock summed up the adventure when he said, “our road here was pretty crazy – playing Bopanna-Qureshi, Peya-Soares, Paes-Stepanek and then the Bryans. If we had known that was our path, I don’t know how certain we’d be that we’d be sitting here right now.”
The pair both still put the accent on singles, although Pospisil said he had planned to play more doubles this year before six months of anguish with his back. They will surely get a wild card, if needed, into the Rogers Cup in Toronto and likely play Cincinnati before the US Open.
For the voctory, Pospisil and Sock shared a winner’s purse of 325,000 pounds, which translates into about $594,000 Canadian.
This was the response when Pospisil was asked if his Davis Cup doubles partner Daniel Nestor, eliminated in mixed doubles with partner Kristina Mladenovic later on Saturday, had been of any assistance.
Pospisil: “He’s been giving me advice every match. We’re good friends. He was really happy for me, came and congratulated me (afterward).”
Sock: “Me too.”
Pospisil: “He congratulated him too. But that pretty much sums it up.”
The only more serious moment during the upbeat media conference – libations may or may not have been consumed by the victors – was when Pospisil was asked about winning after all the troubles he has been through with his back beginning at the very start of the 2013 season. “It goes without saying that this is the highlight of my career,” he said. “The last two weeks have been amazing because the whole year has been a struggle – just not feeling good on the court. Then last week was my first pain-free week of the year. That was really nice.”
Then purposely being understated, he smiled and added, “now, to cap it off with a title at Wimbledon is not bad.”
Here’s a shot of Toronto Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale during Vasek Pospisil’s first match at Wimbledon last week. We were unable to verify this – but those do not appear to be some of Karl’s closest friends sitting with him.
NOTE: No blog Sunday, back next week with Tebbutt Tuesday.