Kvitova eases her way back on grass

Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova celebrating her victory over her compatriot Tereza Smitkova in the first round of the WTA Birmingham Classic.
Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova celebrating her victory over her compatriot Tereza Smitkova in the first round of the WTA Birmingham Classic.REUTERS

LONDON • Czech Petra Kvitova made a winning return on grass with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over compatriot Tereza Smitkova to move into the second round of the WTA Birmingham Classic.

But she will not consider this a step towards an attempt on a third Wimbledon title just yet.

Far more importantly, it continued to raise hopes that after the injuries inflicted upon her left hand by an intruder in her home with a knife, she might yet regain many of her impressive attacking qualities.

At the age of 27, and after six months on the sidelines, this was only her third comeback match, but there were moments when Kvitova struck the ball as well as ever.

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There were also mistakes, but these became fewer and less worrying the longer the match went on.

Kvitova had come away from her comeback tournament, the French Open, where she won only one match, with an empty feeling.

"I love to be playing on grass, I am playing the game I love again and I am happy with the way I am playing," she said.

"Of course I still have to be careful. I don't want to get (an) inflammation," she said of the injuries which apparently included damage to all five fingers and two tendons.

"I came here early to practise and try to do the right things. I've missed the fight and the adrenaline. I don't miss the nerves - I am always very nervous."

This may well account for an indifferent start which saw her go 3-1 up when she might have gone 1-3 down. She saved a break point in the third game with a brilliant but risky drop shot, and saw Smitkova three times have points to hold her next service game only to lose it with a second serve .

That seemed to change everything. Kvitova played three great points to go 4-1 up and then produced three brilliant forehand drive winners to break serve again.

Smitkova, a lucky loser from qualifying, hit some rousing ground strokes as the second set went on. But by then, Kvitova was playing with a better rhythm.

She ended, suitably, with an ace and plenty of applause.

The world No. 16 next plays Naomi Broady, a British wild card.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Kvitova eases her way back on grass'. Print Edition | Subscribe