MELBOURNE, (Reuters) : Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova stood head bowed, red faced, praying for the ground to open up and swallow her. There’s nowhere to hide when you hit the worst shot of a tennis grand slam.
The world number two had her racquet raised and ready to snash home a winner against Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday and as the ball dipped closer the Czech coiled in anticipation.
What should have been a routine smash will undoubtedly become an Internet sensation as Kvitova slashed into thin air, the ball slapped off her hip, hit the ground and bounced over the net.
“I really don’t know how I missed it,” she told Reuters in an interview. “I stood on the spot, saw the ball and it just missed my racquet. But this is tennis, this can happen.
“I’m not the first and won’t be the last to miss a shot. It’s not really that horrible.”
The Czech recovered from the embarassment to win 6-2 7-6 but smiled sheepishly when asked if she could remember hitting a worse shot.
“I don’t know if it’s the worst (shot) of my career,” Kvitova said, shaking her head. “I know that it looked really strange when I missed it. But anyway ... I won, that’s the important thing.”
The 21-year-old returned to her chair after the miss, wrapped her head in a towel and tried to focus on her next service game but was so rattled she dropped it to love, giving Ivanovic the sniff of an upset.
However, Kvitova pulled herself together to win the set in a tiebreak and secure her place in the last eight.
Kvitova’s role model Martina Navratilova said the fact that she did not fall apart completely after the clanger showed that she could cement her place as one of the top women in the world.
“Today she hit a whiff on the overhead, embarrassed as heck,” Navratilova said. “Shanked like six balls in a row, but got it together, held serve. In years past, and even last year, she would lose those matches or lose her concentration.
“But now she gets it back together. She’s tough. I’m glad I’m not the on the other side of the net.
“With the absence of Serena (Williams) playing enough, we need some superstars that you really feel like they’re holding their own. I think Petra has that possibility.”
Kvitova says she is flattered to be compared with Navartilova, who won 18 grand slam singles titles.
“She is a legend. She won many grand slams and was originally from the Czech Republic. She was my idol growing up and it’s nice to have that (comparison),” she added.
“I don’t think it adds any pressure. It’s a nice thing to have.”
Kvitova, who could take Caroline Wozniacki’s world number one ranking at the year’s first grand slam, also looked forward to playing in London at the Olympic Games.
“I really want to play in the Olympics and play at Wimbledon on the grass, where I won last year. I really want to represent my country and be with the other athletes.
“It will be really enjoyable.”