LONDON, July 3 (Agencies): Three-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova has predicted �great things� from Petra Kvitova even when the big guns of the women�s game return to full fitness.
The 21-year-old Czech player enjoyed a life-changing experience following her 6-3, 6-4 victory over 2004 champion Sharapova in Saturday�s Wimbledon final.
Kvitova�s thumping ground strokes and relatively composed performance have some suggesting that her win at the All England Club might have signalled a changing of the guard on the women�s side. However it must be remembered the Williams sisters are still on the way back from long stints on the sidelines while Belgian Kim Clijsters missed the tournament with an ankle injury.
They have collected a whopping 24 grand slam titles between them. While Venus Williams has not won a grand slam for three years, her sister Serena remains a title threat despite having a year out with a series of health concerns.
She had a minimal lead-up to Wimbledon this year but is expected to be back to her sharpest in time for the US Open.
Similarly if Clijsters is able to shake off an ankle problem, the 2009 and 2010 US Open champion will take some beating at Flushing Meadows.
However Sharapova thought that Kvitova had the game to handle any player.
�She�s a grand slam champion,� she said.
�She has a tremendous amount of potential to go even further and achieve many great things. If she keeps playing like that and keeps her level up, absolutely. She has a great game for it.� Eighteen-time grand slam winner Martina Navratilova said on the eve of the final that changes could be afoot on the women�s side.
�Maybe this is the changing of the guard,� she said. Maybe this is the new blood coming. �The Germans have three really good players coming through (in Sabine Lisicki, Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges). Now Kvitova. (Victoria) Azarenka, I think she�s going to be a force. Sam Stosur, a little bit of a disappointment this year, but potential also. I think we�re seeing the new players taking charge.� Navratilova felt the younger players were not intimidated by the Williams� sisters anymore.
�They�re not scared out there,� she said.
�They�re playing forceful tennis. It happens eventually.
�I wouldn�t write off Serena Williams quite yet. I think Venus is two years older and it gets harder after 30.� Sharapova wasn�t sure whether the trend of fresh faces winning grand slams would continue.
�Of course you�re always going to see a younger generation rise up,� she said.
�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.� Kvitova was the first left-hander to win the women�s Wimbledon title since Navratilova was last crowned champion back in 1990.