Coronavirus pandemic

Ball boy shows Kvitova what she's missing

Petra Kvitova returning a shot to Barbora Krejcikova in an all-Czech exhibition match at the Sparta Prague tennis club. They were playing to raise funds for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the Czech Republic.
Petra Kvitova returning a shot to Barbora Krejcikova in an all-Czech exhibition match at the Sparta Prague tennis club. They were playing to raise funds for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the Czech Republic.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PRAGUE • A little ball boy peeking from behind a fence gave Petra Kvitova the sole glimpse of the fan support she is sorely missing at an all-Czech tennis exhibition that is being played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was after I played a decent passing shot down the line," said the world No. 12, after she beat doubles specialist Barbora Krejcikova 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 on Tuesday night.

"I ended up near the fence and he said, 'Nice one!' to me. So I answered, 'Thank you'."

But she admitted it felt "very weird" to play without an audience at the three-day tournament, which ends today, underlined by the strict hygiene measures in place to slow down the spread of Covid-19.

Ball boys and girls, and judges have to wear masks and gloves, while the customary towel service and handshakes between competitors are banned.

"The audience is crucial, it's an engine for me," said Kvitova.

"It feels very strange. I thought I might cheer for myself quite a few times or say something aloud and then I decided not to."

While the event is televised on national TV, only a limited number of people are allowed to attend, meaning the matches were reduced to a handful of journalists, team members and VIP guests watching on.

Among them were two of Kvitova's friends, who asked her to "tear" a few times, while her coach Jiri Vanek limited himself to just a few subdued shouts of "pojd" or come on in Czech, which is the two-time Wimbledon champion's trademark cheer.

"I thought at least the coach could clap for me and it didn't happen. It was really weird," she added.

She also touched on the axing of Wimbledon for the first time since World War II in 1945, revealing she was "pretty gutted", given her history with the grass-court Slam.

WEIRD FEELING

The audience is crucial, it's an engine for me... I thought at least the coach could clap for me and it didn't happen. It was really weird.

PETRA KVITOVA, on playing without spectators.

The 30-year-old said: "Of all tournaments that have been cancelled, the news was the most upsetting for me... I guess the reason is clear."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2020, with the headline 'Ball boy shows Kvitova what she's missing'. Print Edition | Subscribe