Five months after suffering a potentially career-ending injury in a knife attack in her own home, Petra Kvitova is back on a tennis court and she just cannot stop smiling.
The two-time Wimbledon singles champion will make her comeback at the French Open in Paris, she announced at a packed press conference at Roland Garros on Friday.
"I have already won my biggest fight,” a beaming Kvitova said. “Not many people believe that I can play tennis again.”
Kvitova sustained a serious injury on her left playing hand when she tried to defend herself in a fight with a knife-wielding intruder in her apartment on the morning of 20 December in Prostejov, Czech Republic shortly before Christmas.
The injury was so severe doctors had to repair tendons on all five digits of her left hand as well as two nerves during an operation that lasted almost four hours that same evening.
A month later, as her skin healed, Kvitova started to play table tennis and badminton. Twelve weeks after the attack, she started to play tennis again, with her work load being increased very slowly to make sure there wasn’t any inflammation on her hand.
She began practising on the clay in Monte Carlo early May and with her hand able to deal with the extra work load, her surgeon gave the green light for a return to professional tennis a month ahead of schedule.
“We tried to stay positive but of course there were some tough moments,” said Kvitova’s fitness coach, David Vydra. “She practised with her hand and body all day long. In Lanzarote, she started the day at 8AM and finished everything by 8PM.”
“It was really tough for all of us, but Petra stayed strong,” said Kvitova's coach, Jiri Vanek. “The first few months were the worst because we didn’t know how the hand would respond to work, but we were positive.”
Kvitova, who faces 86th-ranked American Julia Boserup in the first round of Roland Garros, said it will take time before her hand is back to normal.
“Of course the hand doesn't have that power and the strength yet, but I'm working on it,” Kvitova said. “Hopefully one day will be everything perfect. But we never know still.”
She added: “I like challenges. That was one of the biggest, of course. So I stayed in life and I have all my fingers, I can play tennis and I can be here and be in the draw.”