LONDON (Reuters) - After delivering a final devastating blow, Petra Kvitova lay sprawled on the turf, her arms raised in celebration having crushed tennis’s would-be princess in a Wimbledon final closer to a coronation than a contest.
It took just 55 minutes of thundering forehands and savage serves to hand the Czech a second All England Club title and leave her unwilling victim Eugenie Bouchard licking the wounds of a 6-3 6-0 mauling.
The manner of her victory was unremorsefully brutal. A lesson in the art of modern women’s tennis delivered with such force and conviction it merely begged the question how it had taken the Czech three years to follow up her last success in SW19.
The final point encapsulated the contest -- a fierce crosscourt winner that left Bouchard stretching in vain to get her racket on the ball and Kvitova to accept the Venus Rosewater dish and the applause of an awe-struck, if slightly disappointed crowd.
Falling just one minute short of Martina Navratilova’s 1983 record for the fastest women’s final victory, this was a performance so good it had Saturday’s champion reaching into the supernatural realm for an explanation.
“Maybe it was magic,” she quipped. “I was really prepared for everything. I knew I had to go for every, every shot that she played.”
The pre-match narrative pitched the encounter as a battle between Bouchard’s youthful arrogance and Kvitova’s instinctive wariness, drummed into her after repeatedly struggling to follow up her early success.
The Canadian had welcomed comparisons with multiple major winner Maria Sharapova and with remarkable self-assurance for a 20-year-old used words such as “expect” and “belong” after reaching the final.
Bouchard was named by her parents after the Queen’s grand- daughter, who was watching from the Royal Box, and she freely admits to a princess personality, but she was soundly beaten by a truly regal display.
The first signs of frustration crept in during the third game when a rasping backhand winner had Bouchard flailing and brought up break point. It was not long before the Czech was clenching her fist in celebration after inflicting a crunching body blow.
The next game and Kvitova showed her defences were also watertight as she scampered all over the court to repel Bouchard’s every effort to break through before ending a lengthy rally with a stunning crosscourt winner.
This was the moment when she knew she was in the form of her life: “From that time I was like, ‘okay, that’s not normal’.”
The hushed murmurs of the Centre Court crowd were frequently punctured by sympathetic “oohs” and “aahs” as Kvitova continued to crunch winners off both flanks while sporadic outbursts of “C‘mon Eugenie” proved ineffective as her opponent broke for a 5-2 lead.
Her only brief wobble came in the eighth game when Bouchard broke back, but rather than spark the contest into life it proved to be her final mark on the scoreboard.
The first set ended when Bouchard failed to handle another stinging service return and then the wheels came off.
With the sky growing dark above Centre Court, the outlook proved increasingly gloomy for the Canadian, who was broken in her opening service game of the second set.
The hunched shoulders and weary expression contrasted with the sprightly bounce of the opening games as a second break and a comprehensive hold moved the score to 5-0.
Kvitova sprang from her seat at the change of ends and jogged to receive serve. A netted backhand took her to within one point of the title and her 28th winner allowed the tears to flow.
After dragging herself off the deck, she dashed to the players’ box to wrap her arms around her weeping father, having delivered the perfect present on the eve of his birthday.
Clambering down and with rain on the way, both players had to leave the court as the roof was closed in readiness for the presentation.
The final blow for Bouchard arrived as she was left to wait in the room where the victor’s name was etched on to the trophy.
“It was a little odd,” she said. “I sat down, I put my jacket on. Just reflected. I was in the engraver’s room, so I was watching them work, wishing one day, dreaming that he’ll write my name somewhere. Maybe it’s a bit cruel.”
This was a step on the path to a greater goal for the 20-year-old who will move up to seven in the rankings having reached the final on the back of appearances in the last four at the Australian and French Opens earlier in the year.
“I am very motivated to win a grand slam,” she said. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine. I feel like I’ve taken steps in the right direction to achieve that.”
For Kvitova, who has spent most of the time since her 2011 success trying to shed the weighty millstone of being tagged a one-hit wonder, she now has the chance to impose herself at the top of women’s game.
It is hard to imagine anyone being able to live with her when she puts all the elements of her destructive skillset together as she did in this all-too-brief demolition that caught even her by surprise.
“I wasn’t really imagining this situation again,” she said. “It was certainly a great journey for me here.”
(Removes superfluous “years” in second para)
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Clare Lovell