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Petra Kvitova returns a shot against Maria Sharapova during the final of Wimbledon on Centre Court on Saturday.
Petra Kvitova returns a shot against Maria Sharapova during the final of Wimbledon on Centre Court on Saturday.

Sharapova hails 'wonderful' Kvitova

Petra Kvitova won her first grand slam title on Saturday by beating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final and then dropped to her knees in disbelief.

Petra Kvitova won her first grand slam title on Saturday by beating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final and then dropped to her knees in disbelief.

Kvitova was playing in her first major final, but it was the three-time grand slam champion Sharapova who showed her nerves. The 2004 Wimbledon champion double-faulted six times, including twice to get broken to 4-2 in the first set.

"Unfortunately, in tennis there's only one winner at the end of the day and that's what makes this tournament so special," Sharapova said before turning her attention to Kvitova.

"So big congratulations on a wonderful victory, you played a wonderful tournament."

Kvitova, the 21-year-old Czech, is the first left-handed woman to win the Wimbledon title since Martina Navratilova in 1990. The victory was only the fifth in her career, but four have come in 2011.

Using a fast-paced and well-placed forehand, Kvitova did little wrong on Centre Court as the Czech greats Navratilova and Jana Novotna sat in the Royal Box with several other former Wimbledon champions.

"It's very nice when they're watching me all the time and supporting me, it's great," said Kvitova. "They were so happy, I cried after I met them. It's still an unbelievable feeling. Maybe I'll accept it after a few days."

Kvitova kept Sharapova on the run with 18 winners and never seemed to lose confidence, despite being broken three times.

"Of course, I was nervous," Kvitova said. "I thought I can win Wimbledon. But I had to focus on each point."

Sharapova was the clear favourite entering the match. Besides winning the title at the All England Club in 2004, she also won the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008.

Shoulder surgery in October 2008 slowed her career. Not until the French Open last month did Sharapova return to the semi-finals at a grand slam tournament.

"I've had amazing support over so many years and to be back at this stage and holding the runner-up trophy this year is something that obviously, I would have wanted that big one. It's something I'm going to be back for and I'm hoping to get again," Sharapova, 24, said.

She had not lost a set heading into the final. But she struggled with her serve in the semi-finals, double-faulting 13 times before beating the German wild card, Sabine Lisicki.

Sharapova won the toss at the net before the final and elected to receive, perhaps because she wanted some time to get into game action before serving.

Whatever the reason, it appeared to be a smart move because she broke for a 1-0 lead as Kvitova missed three forehands.

Sharapova's serve was then tested for the first time in the next game, and although she had only one fault in five attempts, she lost four of the points to even the score at 1-1.

Sharapova wasted her second chance at a break in the third game, and then gifted a break to Kvitova a few games later. With the score 30-30, Sharapova produced her second double-fault of the match. The third came two swings later.

Trailing 5-2, Sharapova double-faulted again to open the eighth game. But she did manage to hold and force Kvitova to serve out the set.

Kvitova broke Sharapova again in the opening game of the second set, with the Russian double-faulting for the fifth time to give the Czech a break point.

The pair twice traded breaks later in the set, but Kvitova held on to win the championship dish for the first time.

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