Nick Bollettieri: Kvitova must go for broke or fearless Maria will eat her up
The Wimbledon Files
Saturday 02 July 2011
Petra Kvitova plays this great game of ours with a simple plan.
Here it is: whatever she sees she hits, and where it goes nobody knows.
She will only play one way this afternoon on Centre Court in what is by far and away the biggest moment of her young career. She is only 21 but she is big, strong and a runner. Man, she covers the court at speed, there is a real energy about her. And she has one big weapon against Maria Sharapova. She is a lefty.
Now I've been teaching and coaching tennis for six decades and lefties are far, far different from the majority of players – I'm talking those who are right-handed. They see the dimensions of the court differently, they have far more wrist acceleration and – I can't really explain this – plenty of this breed seem to have a different thought process.
There are two big advantages that Kvitova's left-handedness brings her with the serve and she will need both of them to combat Sharapova, who stands out with her crashing returns. The Russian's serving was a battle she too often lost in the semi-final but she kept breaking back to prevent her opponent from getting away. Kvitova has to serve well.
When, as a left-hander, she serves to the advantage side it naturally takes the returner off the court and so opens it up for the server, this is even more so on grass with the ball bouncing lower. And when Kvitova serves to the other side, look out for how she will direct it into Sharapova's body, trying to restrict her use of that thumping forehand. The aim is to make right-handed opponents return backhand and that again forces them off court into the alley.
Kvitova must make her serve count. That is all important. I watched Maria, 3-0 down and break point to go four love in the semi-final against Sabine Lisicki. And you know what? Maria stood there and said: "Hey baby, there's no way you're gonna win." It's a look I know so, so well. She's had it since she was nine years old and first arrived at my academy. Back then she was so skinny that if the wind blew she would be lifted off her feet, but she had that attitude, boy did she have a winning attitude, and it used to scare girls a lot older than her I can tell you. Jelena Jankovic was two years older but she couldn't cope with Maria.
She has come through some tough times in recent years, with that serious shoulder op, and it's that ballsy attitude that has got her out the other side. Now she's pretty damn close to being back to her formidable best. She's moving better and the courts in the second week help her as the bounce does not keep as low and there's more dirt around which helps with grip. The longer rallies go on, the more it will favour Sharapova. She proved that against Lisicki where she was impressively mobile.
Kvitova's second serve is not as good as Lisicki's and Sharapova knows how to break – just look what she did to Lisicki despite her own serve malfunctioning. Sharapova had 13 double-faults in the semi – and still won with plenty to spare. That's amazing and the problem for Kvitova is you can't imagine her serving so poorly again.
Holy cow, will Kvitova come at Sharapova this afternoon. It's the only way she knows how. Her stats from the semi-final against Victoria Azarenka show that she made plenty of errors and blazed plenty of forehands wide or long. But she kept going for it. She's not going to change her philosophy and she mustn't. Her only chance is to go for broke, but this Centre Court is a stage Sharapova is well used to. Kvitova's time will come over the next few years but this afternoon Sharapova has the game, the power and the experience to give her the edge.
Mr B's A-Zee
W: What else? It has to be for Wimbledon. Whether it's watching the big boys bash the hell out of each other on Centre, keeping an eye on one of my juniors on an outside court or bumping into old friends and foes around the grounds, this is a very special place all the way from the tradition to the tennis. I love it.
X: Ability alone is not going to win you a Grand Slam. You need to have something else – the X-factor. An indefinable quality that marks out the winners.
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The prize can be for an adult wanting to shape up his or her game, or for a child who wants to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, among other players who went from being kids under my tuition to No 1 in the world.
What you have to do is answer this question: How many games will there be in today's women's final? Send me your answer (and predict how long the match will last, in case we need a tie-break) to firstname.lastname@example.org and the correct one will win a signed hat or T-shirt.
I will be putting a question every day and all the winners will go into the hat for the big prize to be drawn at the end of the fortnight: a week at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy.
Coaching tip of the day
Let's talk doubles because I know that's what many of you guys like to play. In doubles the serve and first return are the keys to success. For first serve, take a little pace off and you will get more in – and win more points. The returner is rarely looking to be aggressive on the first serve so taking a little pace off should not cost you.
Today's Big Match: Maria Sharapova v Petra Kvitova
Maria Sharapova / Petra Kvitova
Russian / Nationality / Czech
24 / Age / 21
Bradenton, Florida / Residence / Fulnek, Cz Rep
Right-handed / Plays / Left-handed
6ft 2in / Height / 6ft
6 / World Ranking / 8
23 / Career Titles / 4
$15.2m / Career prize-money / $2.6m
W36 L7 / Wimbledon Record / W12 L3
Winner / Wimbledon Best / Final
W1 L0 / Head-to-head / W0 L1
8-15 / Odds / 6-4
Bollettieri's Prediction: Sharapova in three
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