Tennis: No comeback timeline yet for Kvitova

A tennis fan takes a picture of a billboard with handwritten messages for Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells. The knife attack in December caused damage to the tendons of her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers.
A tennis fan takes a picture of a billboard with handwritten messages for Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells. The knife attack in December caused damage to the tendons of her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Physical, mental recovery under way as Czech star battles tendon damage suffered in knife attack

PRAGUE • Petra Kvitova has regained the use of her racquet hand which was badly injured three months ago in a knife attack, but there is still no date for her return to tennis, her spokesman said on Monday.

The two-time Wimbledon champion suffered severe injuries to her left hand as she fought off a knife-wielding intruder at her home in the eastern Czech town of Prostejov - about 260km south-east of Prague - in December.

The intruder was believed to be a burglar who stole 5,000 Czech koruna (S$280) from Kvitova's apartment.

The 27-year-old underwent emergency surgery following the attack, enduring a four-hour operation to repair tendon and nerve damage.

Kvitova posted a statement on her Facebook page after the surgery to reassure fans, stating that she was "shaken" but also "fortunate to be alive".

"Petra uses her hand without problem for daily activities," spokesman Karel Tejkal told AFP, saying she had been keeping up her fitness.

"Of course, the hand is weakened but at first glance you can't see that she was injured."

Kvitova suffered damage to the tendons of her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers and two nerves.

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 racquet 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."

Kvitova's doctors had previously estimated that the Czech star, ranked No. 15 in the world, would not be able to return to competition before the second half of this year.

"At the moment, no one can give a concrete date," said Tejkal.

"Petra's convalescence is continuing as planned, so far there are no complications, but everything is up in the air as to her return."

Her recovery psychologically was "very encouraging", he added, saying she had been undergoing fitness training in the Canary Islands.

Kvitova's absence on tour has been deeply felt. At the BNP Paribas Open which concluded in Indian Wells on Sunday, a giant billboard was put up with a photo of the Czech and the words "Get well Petra".

Fans also posted their greetings and encouragement for Kvitova on the sign and the space quickly filled up throughout the duration of the tournament.

The identity of the intruder who carried out the assault, however, remains unknown to police.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'No comeback timeline yet for Kvitova'. Print Edition | Subscribe