SINGAPORE – David Kotyza still remembers the first time he saw Petra Kvitova hit a tennis ball. Kotyza was coaching Lucie Safarova at the time and a then 17-year-old Kvitova, unknown and unheralded even in her own country, was practicing with Safarova at the National Tennis Center in Prostejov.
“I asked who is this girl?” Kotyza told WTA Insider. “I remember we spoke about her flat strokes and I said ‘Hey, we can read the side of the ball. It’s not rolling at all!’ What does it mean? Where are you from? Is it a magic club?” he recounted with a laugh. “She played a different style. That was the first time I really recognized her.”
Two years later, Kotyza would become Kvitova’s coach, and the two have forged a lasting bond that has lasted the last seven years. Under his tutelage, Kvitova has won Wimbledon twice, been ranked as high as No.2 and pocketed 17 career titles. But for Kotyza, an affable, thoughtful 48-year-old from Pilsen, the most rewarding aspect of their partnership has been watching Kvitova endure adversity and mature from a shy small-town girl to the poised 25-year-old she is now.
In an era in which talent and future stars are identified and cultivated long before the age of 16, Kvitova was a relative unknown in the Czech Republic. She never played outside of the country in her younger days and the small village of Fulnek – population of less than 6,000 people – was a long ways away from Prostejov or Prague, the dual hearts of Czech tennis. Once Kvitova actually started playing real tournaments, her rise was immediate.