LONDON — Eugenie Bouchard is a rising phenom, bound and determined to be a champ, but her fortnight at Wimbledon turned into a harsh wannabe’s tutorial Saturday when Czech star Petra Kvitova shaped the ladies singles championship into her own 55-minute clinic in speed dating with destiny.
Kvitova, a fitter, faster, and more focused version of the woman who won here in 2011, pulverized Bouchard, 6-3, 6-0, in a thorough and powerful game of yellow-ball keepaway. For the brief time she was out there, the seemingly stunned Bouchard, a 20-year-old Montrealer, found herself unable to buy a second’s respite or clue to force her way into the match.
With the roof open over SW19’s iconic Centre Court, Bouchard won the opening game on serve, and from there had little go her way. Kvitova blew her off the court on serve, dismantled her with both forehand and backhand on rallies (few more than three or four shots), eroding and then washing away the confidence Bouchard built here across the six wins that brought her to her first Grand Slam final.
“You know, I didn’t have any answers on the court today,’’ said Bouchard, a 2012 champion in the Wimbledon girls’ singles and the heir apparent, many believe, to dominate the women’s game on the court and in the marketing world. “I think that’s the bottom line.’’
Kvitova, 24, broke Bouchard in the third game of the first set for a 2-1 lead and the match never would return to even for the rest of the mini-matinee. Bouchard managed to fight off the first break point in that game, but lost it three points later when Kvitova dotted the corner with a cracking cross-court forehand. It was a scene that played out many times, be it via backhand or forehand, Kvitova beating back Bouchard’s best offerings with pace and accuracy.
As the beating played out, the sellout crowd in awe, Bouchard’s body language reflected the reality on the scoreboard.
“It’s not a case of nerves,’’ noted John McEnroe on the BBC, “she’s just getting outplayed.’’
With each minute, fast and fleeting, Kvitova grew more confident, the lefthander finally as dominant as the tennis cognoscenti predicted she would be when she left here with the title 36 months earlier after dumping Maria Sharapova. Yet the predicted titles haven’t followed. Prior to Sunday, she hadn’t scored another Slams title, her best finish a pair of matching semis in Australia and France in 2012.
“It’s never easy to handle the pressure after my first Grand Slam here,’’ she said. “It was really difficult for me, definitely. Sometimes I was down because of the people’s expectations.’’
Headed into the final, Bouchard was expected to repeat her formula of the last two weeks, perpetually tracking down and returning shots, then imposing her will on serve. Her semifinal win over Simona Halep (7-6, 6-2) was particularly impressive, as was her win in the quarters over Alize Cornet, who previously knocked Serena Williams out of the singles.
Against Kvitova, though, Bouchard was faced with a very hard server (top speed 113 miles per hour) and a forceful returner, which negated Bouchard’s ability to park on the baseline for returns, especially on serve. And when on serve, perhaps frustrated that nothing else was working, Bouchard suffered mightily, winning only 46 percent of her first-serve points. Kvitova, on the other hand, won 82 percent of her first-serve points.
“I just did really everything what I could in the moment,’’ said Kvitova. “I was very focused for every point. I knew that I have to go forward for every shot I’m playing to push her.’’
The first set, which took 32 minutes, effectively was over when Kvitova followed the break to 2-1 and won on serve, clinching the 3-1 lead by finishing off the day’s best rally with some magical ground coverage and shot making. It was the first sign that nothing in Bouchard’s bag of tricks could beat Kvitova. Bouchard came back and won on serve to close to within a game, but Kvitova broke her again to 5-2, again with a dynamic forehand winner that Bouchard was unable to catch. Too much power, too much pace, too little ability on Bouchard’s part to adapt. She couldn’t win on serve for the rest of the day, Kvitova ultimately running off nine straight games.
“I feel like a few times, you know, she was a bit off-balance and I had a few chances,’’ reflected Bouchard. “But I was a bit hesitant. I think in the first set I started OK, but in the second set I was a bit hesitant sometimes. Maybe [another time] I would just try to go for those a little bit more.’’
Bouchard was serving when it ended, but it was death again by break, Kvitova applying the backhand kill shot from the baseline. Job done, she dropped her racket, fell derriere-first behind the baseline, dropped backward to extend fully, and then luxuriate a few seconds on the baked lawn, looking into the gray sky.
In a somewhat awkward finish to the day, both players were sent back to the club’s posh headquarters while the retractable roof was engaged to close because of the impending rain. The Venus Rosewater dish could wait. Finally, after about a 10-minute delay, Bouchard and Kvitova came back out to pick up their spoils.
The crowd here loved Bouchard, her first name that of a British princess. Day after day, the papers carried stories of her mother’s love of all things royalty. The crowd wanted her to win, cheering vigorously and lovingly with each of the few points she was able to nick off Kvitova.
“I really don’t know if I deserve all your love today,’’ she told the crowd during the final ceremonies. “But I certainly appreciate it.’’
Only minutes before, while waiting for the roof to close, Bouchard sat in the engraver’s room while Kvitova’s name was being etched a second time as champion.
“It was a little odd,’’ acknowledged Bouchard. “I sat down. I put my jacket on. I was watching them work, wishing one day, dreaming that he’ll write my name somewhere.’’