LONDON (AP) — Winning her first Grand Slam title three years ago at Wimbledon has made it that much easier for Petra Kvitova to handle the aftermath of her second at the All England Club.
There she was, sitting among yet another group of journalists wanting to ask her, probably, the same questions she had just answered in the roomful she faced minutes before.
It was three hours after she had completely dominated Eugenie Bouchard in the Wimbledon final Saturday – a time frame three times longer than her 6-3, 6-0 victory over the Canadian.
But the 24-yearold Czech player was there smiling, joking and looking like she was reveling in the moment.
“I mean I am enjoying this more already than my first one,” Kvitova said. “The first time, I didn’t know how it would feel, I didn’t know what to expect.”
The expectations were what got to her after her 2011 title win here – on and off the court. People thinking she would win every time she picked up a racket. New sponsor endorsements that took up more of her time, and fan days and media commitments at every tournament she played.
She managed for a time – 2011 was a banner year with six tournament wins, including the season-ending WTA Championships. But frailties began to show in her game, culminating in a poor 2013 at Grand Slams – Wimbledon was the only major at which she reached the quarterfinals – and a slide in the rankings that nearly took her out of the top 10.
It began to make her wonder: Could she win another major?
Enter sports psychologist Michael Safer, who Kvitova calls her “mental coach.”
He helped make her believe that she could.
“It took a lot of work,” Kvitova said. “He helped me to handle the pressure during matches, it was very difficult and something I really needed to learn. I was playing well but something was missing, how I handled the pressure in key moments.”
On Saturday, Kvitova used that mental toughness to transport herself into the “zone,” a term often used by athletes to explain how they play above and beyond their usual performance levels.
Certainly the 20-year-old Bouchard witnessed it firsthand.
Dictating points with her big serve, aggressive returns and flat groundstrokes, Kvitova never let Bouchard get into the match. The Canadian looked down at the ground on one occasion and raised two hands as if to ask what could she do next to stop the onslaught.
The answer was nothing.
“She played unbelievable and didn’t give me many opportunities to stay in the rally,” Bouchard said, “or do what I do.”
Kvitova even surprised herself.
“I mean, a few shots (were) really incredible and I really couldn’t believe that I made it actually,” she said. “Maybe it was magic.”
Asked to explain the best thing that happened to her after her first win in 2011, she quickly said having a Wimbledon trophy to share with her parents.
And now a second one to take home to the Czech Republic the next time she visits her mother and father. Her dad, Jiri, celebrated his birthday on Sunday.
“I can’t say that it’s more special,” she said when asked to explain the difference. “But definitely after three years to stand here with the trophy again, it’s absolutely amazing.”