Tennis: Petre Kvitova out indefinitely, question marks raised over her ability to recover physically and mentally after knife attack

Czech Petra Kvitova may be down but she is not out. The world No. 11 is determined to make a comeback after being injured by a knife-wielding attacker in her home on Tuesday.
Czech Petra Kvitova may be down but she is not out. The world No. 11 is determined to make a comeback after being injured by a knife-wielding attacker in her home on Tuesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Two-time Major champ stays positive amid concerns over mental and physical recovery

PRAGUE • A dark cloud hangs over the future of two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova after the tennis player underwent nearly four hours of surgery on Tuesday following serious injuries inflicted by a knife-wielding attacker in her home.

Her spokesman Karel Tejkal said she would not be able to train for at least three months but insisted that "there's no reason to think she wouldn't be able to play tennis".

"The end of her career did not even cross her mind," he said in an interview with Czech television.

"She kept saying, 'Let them put me together fast, no matter if it takes months or years.' She is looking forward to training again."

However, the recovery will definitely take some time.

Tejkal said the 26-year-old will miss the Australian Open and a significant part of the season as she will not be able to train fully for at least three months.

World No. 11 Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion, suffered damage to the tendons of her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers and two nerves, Tejkal said.

RETIREMENT RULED OUT

The end of her career did not even cross her mind... She is looking forward to training again.

KAREL TEJKAL, spokesman for Petra Kvitova, on her intention to resume her tennis career after her assault.

He also confirmed an account of the struggle in her home in the eastern Czech town of Prostejov, which was first reported by the BBC. The attack happened before 8.30am local time when Kvitova, who was eating breakfast, opened the door to a man who had rung the doorbell and claimed he had come to read the meter. A struggle in a bathroom led to a knife against Kvitova's throat.

She was able to fight free, but not before suffering deep lacerations to the fingers of her left hand.

Her assailant, described by the Prostejov police as a man in his mid-30s, escaped after stealing 5,000 koruna (S$278) and has not been apprehended.

Damage to her left hand could affect her future in tennis: Kvitova plays left-handed and uses a two-handed backhand.

"Considering the extent of the damage, the surgery went very well," her public relations manager Katie Spellman said.

Kvitova will wear a cast for six to eight weeks, and will be unable to bear weight for three months. A timetable for any possible return to the sport is not yet known.

Dr Michael W. Kessler, chief of hand and elbow surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said numbness after suffering nerve injuries could prove particularly disruptive to playing tennis again.

"Hitting a forehand or a backhand is really challenging with tendon injuries, but we also always talk about touch in tennis, to hit a drop shot or something like that," he said. "A tennis racket is the extension of someone's arm, so not having the feedback from the fingertips to the same level of specificity that was there before can also be challenging."

Besides the physical recovery, there are also question marks over her mental recovery.

In 2007, former world No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze and her family were assaulted during a home invasion in Moscow. The Russian, who had made the semi-finals of the US Open three months before, was unable to replicate that success, and retired in 2013 at the age of just 26.

On Tuesday, she noted that mental recovery from such an attack can be more difficult than the physical aspects. "Especially when you got badly injured, you always ask yourself, 'Why did it happen?'" said the Russian. "Could I do something different in that situation?

"I got an arm nerve injury after they tied it up with TV cable, and it took one month to feel my arm again. With a knife, it's even worse. I hope she will recover as soon as possible, mentally and physically, but it would not be easy."

In 1993, then world No. 1 Monica Seles was stabbed by a fan during a match. While she recovered from the injury, she never won another Grand Slam singles title again.

Support for Kvitova poured in from fellow tennis stars.

"So upset hearing the news about @Petra-Kvitova. Hands down one of the nicest people I've ever met. All my thoughts with her," tweeted world No. 8 Madison Keys. "Just finding out about @Petra-Kvitova and the awful stabbing and injury to her hand - pulling for you Petra," added ex-great Martina Navratilova. And Oracene Price, mother of Serena and Venus Williams, tweeted: "@Petra-Kvitova I'm very sorry to hear what happen to you. I'm praying for your speedy recovery."

THE GUARDIAN, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'Kvitova out indefinitely'. Print Edition | Subscribe