|Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic (R) kisses Maria Sharapova of Russia after defeating her in their final match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London July 2, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Wimbledon, England (Sports Network) - Petra Kvitova captured her first Grand Slam title Saturday with a straight-set victory over Maria Sharapova in the women's final at Wimbledon.
The eighth-seeded Kvitova used a powerful array of groundstrokes to earn a 6-3, 6-4 triumph on the famed lawns of the All England Club. She became the first Czech woman to win Wimbledon since Jana Novotna in 1998 and first left- handed woman to capture the crown since fellow Czech native Martina Navratilova won her record ninth title in 1990.
Kvitova, in her first-ever Grand Slam final, notched her fifth career title and also improved to 4-1 in finals this year. She claimed the tournament in Brisbane to start the season, then won at the Paris Indoors before capturing the Madrid crown. Her lone loss in a title match came a few weeks ago at the grass court tuneup in Eastbourne.
"It's hard to find the words," an emotional Kvitova said on court after the match. "Of course I was nervous, but I focused on each point. I think it's the best match I've ever played."
Sharapova, meanwhile, fell to 3-2 all-time in Grand Slam finals. She won the Wimbledon crown as a 17-year-old in 2004 with a stunner over Serena Williams in the final and claimed the 2006 U.S. Open and 2008 Australian Open titles. Her lone previous loss in a major title match came at the 2007 Aussie Open.
"Unfortunately in tennis there's only one winner and she played brilliantly today," Sharapova said on court afterward.
With her fellow Czech natives Novotna and Navratilova -- as well as other former women's champions -- watching from the Royal Box, Kvitova kept Sharapova on her heels for most of the match with deep forehands and backhands. She ripped 19 winners overall and took advantage of another somewhat poor serving day from Sharapova.
Entering the final with a whopping 36 double-faults in her first six matches, including 13 in a semifinal win over Germany's Sabine Lisicki, Sharapova committed six more on Saturday. Kvitova also dominated against the Russian star's second serve, winning 11 of the 15 points.
Because of her serve issues, Sharapova elected to receive first on Saturday and the move immediately paid off when she broke to start the match. Kvitova, however, quickly responded with a break and the set remained on serve until Sharapova twice double-faulted to give the Czech a break for a 4-2 edge.
Kvitova solidified the break with a hold of serve and gained a set point in the next game, but Sharapova came through with her first ace of the match to save it. The Russian went on to force Kvitova to serve for the set, and she won it when Sharapova drilled a forehand into the net.
Sharapova hadn't dropped a set before Saturday, then her fifth double-fault of the match in the opening game of the second set gave Kvitova a break point and she converted by drilling a forehand that clipped the back line and was upheld by review. The Russian got back on serve with a perfect lob to break for 2-2.
Holding serve then became a rarity, as the ensuing three games all went to the returner. A Sharapova forehand wide gave Kvitova her third break of the set and a 4-3 lead.
Kvitova finally held serve, as did Sharapova in the next game, again forcing the 21-year-old Czech to serve it out. She did with ease, blasting her lone ace on her first match point to seal it.
Sharapova, the fifth seed at this fortnight, was trying for her 24th career title and fell to 1-2 in finals this year. She lost to Victoria Azarenka in the Miami final and captured the French Open tuneup in Rome with a win over Samantha Stosur.
It was only the second meeting between Sharapova and Kvitova. Sharapova won the first last year in Memphis.
The victory also earned Kvitova a first prize of $1.7 million.