Two correspondents wrote last week complaining about the way commentators for the Wimbledon tennis tournaments were pronouncing Maria Sharapova’s name. As they pointed out, in Russian her surname bears antepenultimate stress: she is Шарапова ʃəˈrapəvə, so in English we ought to call her ʃəˈræpəvə. But we don’t, we call her ˌʃærəˈpəʊvə with penultimate stress.
Dismayed as purists and my correspondents may be, there’s not much we can do about this. I am told that the tennis player herself is quite content to be given penultimate stress in English and to be known as BrE ˌʃærəˈpəʊvə, AmE ˌʃɑrəˈpoʊvə.
There were two other woman tennis players last week the pronunciation of whose names perhaps deserves comment. One is Sabine Lisicki. She is German, born in Troisdorf, although her name must be of Czech (or some other Slavonic) origin. Neither of my German pronunciation dictionaries ɡives the pronunciation of her name. In Czech it would presumably be ˈlisitski. The English commentators called her lɪˈzɪki, lə-.
The other is the new women’s single champion, Petra Kvitova. She is Czech, and in Czech her name is written Kvitová (with the obligatory unstressed feminine ending -ová borne by all Czech females) and pronounced ˈkvitovaː. Our commentators all had a problem with the cluster kv-, which they solved by inserting an anaptyctic schwa, giving kəˈvɪtəvə.
I am not sure why kv- presents such a problem to English speakers. We seem to manage to produce sv- without anaptyxis in Svengali, svelte, Svalbard and, um, svarabhakti. We manage ʃv- in nazi-era mock-German Schweinhund as well as in Schweitzer and Schwarzwald. And kw- is an everyday cluster for us and not so very different from kv-.