Tennis: Wimbledon kept Petra Kvitova's hopes alive in dark times

Kvitova (above) was Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014.
Kvitova (above) was Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) – Petra Kvitova admitted Saturday that the dream of returning to Wimbledon kept her spirits up after she suffered a potentially career-ending injury in a terrifying knife attack at her home.

The 27-year-old Czech, who was Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, only returned to the sport at the French Open having missed six months to recover from the December attack which left her left playing hand severely damaged.

Warned by her doctors that she may even lose her fingers, Kvitova used the All England Club as motivation to keep her career and hopes alive.

“Sitting on the couch at home, I didn’t think about Wimbledon at first,” said the Czech.

“But then when the time, about the end of the March, I took the racquet for the first time to my hand, I was starting to think I would love to be back in Wimbledon.

“It would be very sad if I can’t make this year. That’s the big, big thing that I’m here. I already play in Paris, but Wimbledon was my dream to coming back, was my motivation to play here.”

Despite the physical and mental scars caused by the terror of fighting off the burglar, and only having played two events all year, Kvitova finds herself amongst the favourites to lift a third Wimbledon title.

With Serena Williams (pregnant) and Maria Sharapova (injured) missing, Kvitova and five-time champion Venus Williams are the only players in the draw to have claimed the women’s trophy.

'MORE IN LIFE THAN JUST TENNIS'

Having lost in the second round at the French Open, Kvitova emphasised her grass court powers by winning the Birmingham title last week.

“I’m still surprised how I played in my second event after my comeback,” said Kvitova, who starts her campaign against Sweden’s Johanna Larsson.

“I think the grass always gives me extra confidence. I know I can play well on it. Through the Birmingham tournament, I felt like every round I played better and better, which is always good sign.”

Whatever happens over the next two weeks, Kvitova said she will treat victory or defeat with similar composure.

It’s a legacy the world number 12 attributes to a new outlook forced upon her by surviving the knife attack.

“I think I am little bit different on the court and off the court. I think I see life and tennis from a little bit of a different angle than before.

“I think that before I was very nervous before every match. Now I see that I shouldn’t be. There’s more important things in the life than just tennis.”

Kvitova believes that although the memories of the attack will always be with her – the investigation by Czech police is still ongoing – she will refuse to be defined as a victim.

“As I said in Paris after my loss, that now the fairytale ended and it’s now my job to be realistic in work, playing tennis, travelling, and really thinking about tennis, which was true,” she added.

“Sometimes when I’m really thinking about it, I get a little bit weird inside. But I think I’m better every week. I hope one day everything will be fine.”