Czech champion delivers final blow with killer left hook
Sunday 03 July 2011
So Petra Kvitova becomes only the third left-handed winner of the women's title at Wimbledon, following in the footsteps of one of her heroes and Czech compatriot Martina Navratilova, who won nine times between 1978 and 1990, and Britain's Ann Jones, who picked up the Venus Rosewater Dish in 1969.
Left-handers account for only 10 per cent of the world's population and in many cultures they are called rather rude things such as gauche or cack-handed.
They are devilishly difficult for right-handers to play on grass too, where their sliced shots (those that have both sidespin and backspin) give them a small but distinct advantage. A left-hander's sliced serve brings their opponent out wide, thus leaving the court dangerously open and vulnerable.
Whether it is a function of left-handedness or just a coincidence, left-handed winners at Wimbledon have also been among the most artistic exponents of the game – Navratilova, John McEnroe (1981, 1983, 1984), Rod Laver (1961, 1962, 1968, 1969) and Jaroslav Drobny (another Czech, as it happens, who won in 1954) – although there have been big hitters, too, such as Jimmy Connors (1974 and 1982) and Goran Ivanisevic (2001).
Apart from being better able to utilise slice, their rarity on the tour gives left-handers an advantage in itself. While lefties are used to playing righties day in, day out, right-handers have to adjust their game each time they play a left-hander.
Maria Sharapova will have practised with a left-handed hitting partner before yesterday's final and must have been grateful for the extra run-out she had in her second-round match against Britain's Laura Robson, another left-hander.
Sharapova, who won here in 2004, said after losing the final: "Obviously there are a lot more righties on tour than lefties, and so you have to get used to their game faster [in a match], and she was taking her chances a little bit more. She placed the ball really well [on her serve] and served quite hard. Her second serve was really big as well."
Navratilova had tipped Kvitova to win the tournament back in May and, along with another Czech, the 1998 Wimbledon winner Jana Novotna, had an emotional meeting with the new champion after they had watched her victory on Centre Court from the royal box. "They were so happy. I cried after I met them," said Kvitova.
Navratilova had said before the match: "That lefty serve will pay off. Maria will have to guard against that slice wide. It seems that lefties always have a good slice and Petra has a good slice. The ball moves more and it's not the wind, you know – we just get on the outside of the ball. Because of the slower courts this year, you can put so much more spin on the ball and the slice stays low. "
After being told she was only the third female left-hander to win at Wimbledon, the 21-year-old Czech was asked if being such a rare bird had given her an advantage over Sharapova. "Well if it's only three," Kvitova joked, "I don't know if it is an advantage.
"But yes, the serve is a little bit [of an] advantage, because the rotation [of the player to the court] is different, so probably."
Today, Rafael Nadal, another left-hander – albeit a manufactured one, as he is naturally right-handed – is going for his third title. Who would bet against a lefty double?
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