Tennis: Kvitova leads new generation

LONDON, United Kingdom - New Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has the world at her feet, but the softly-spoken, 21-year-old Czech now needs to prove that she can be a big noise amongst the big beasts of women's tennis.

With the Williams sisters struggling for form, Kim Clijsters injured and Caroline Wozniacki increasingly unconvincing as world number one, there is a desperate need for characters and compelling storylines.

For Kvitova, the first Grand Slam winner born in the 1990s, it's a big ask to measure up to the epic rivalries in the men's game served up by Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

But Martina Navratilova, who was on hand to see fellow Czech Kvitova become the third woman from her country to win a Wimbledon title, is convinced that the future quality of the women's game can measure up to the men's.

"With the women, we haven't had the two biggest stars, the Williams sisters, then Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters. We've lost our biggest names. They're not playing for one reason or another," said Navratilova.

"That being said, it's about quality, not quantity. I think the women are coming through pretty nicely. It's kind of nobody really grabbed that No. 1 ranking. We'll see what happens the rest of the year."

Navratilova believes that outside of the top three, the men's game is just as open as the women's, but appreciates why Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray dominate the column inches.

"From what I understand, most people come to Wimbledon wanting to watch the men, but when they leave they enjoyed watching the women more," said Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam singles winner.

"The guys have the upper hand. They have four huge superstars playing at the same time. Three guys playing unbelievable tennis. You have two of the greatest players of all time playing at the same time. It pales. But you take away Nadal and Federer, it's wide open a lot more."

Before Kvitova's win over Maria Sharapova on Saturday, recent Grand Slam titles had been captured by some of the tour's more senior citizens.

Li Na was 29 when she won the French Open last month, Clijsters, who holds the US and Australian Open titles, is 28 while last year's Roland Garros champion Frencesca Schiavone was almost 30 at the time.

In the current world top 20, only Kvitova, Wozniacki and Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova were born in or after 1990.

Sharapova, who captured all of her three Grand Slam titles before she was 21, believes that Kvitova is the most promising - and powerful - of the new generation.

"I think she's a much more powerful hitter, she has bigger strokes, and a better serve," said the Russian.

"There's always going to be a generation one after the next. Ultimately they're going to step up at one point. It happened to be in this tournament. We'll see whether that continues for the years to come."

The current top 100 boasts three players who are 19 - Serb world number 50 Bojana Jovanovski, Romania's number 58 Simona Halep and America's 73rd-ranked player Christina McHale.

Jovanovski did enough in her defeat to Germany's Andrea Petkovic in the first round at the French Open to convince the world number 13 of her potential danger.

"She's such a talented player. I really believe she's going to do really well. She's hitting the ball so hard," said Petkovic.

Halep already has a WTA title, winning at Fes in 2010, while McHale first picked up a racquet when her family was living in Hong Kong.

A quarter-finalist in Charleston this year, McHale celebrated her first Grand Slam singles win when she defeated Russian 28th seed Ekaterina Makarova in the first round at Wimbledon.