MELBOURNE • Comeback queen Petra Kvitova said she was hurting, but still felt like a winner after going down with guns blazing against Japan's Naomi Osaka in an epic Australian Open women's singles final.
The two-time Wimbledon champion overcame incredible odds to even play tennis again after a knife attack damaged her racket hand in late 2016.
Doctors had given her just a 10 per cent chance of returning to the sport and Kvitova said reaching the final of the season-opening Grand Slam was an achievement in itself.
"It's hurting a lot today, I wanted to win and have the trophy," the 28-year-old said after the 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-4 defeat.
"But I think I already won two years ago. So for me, it's crazy. I can hardly believe that I just played in a Grand Slam final again.
"I've been through many, many things, not really great ones. Still few things which I can improve, and we'll do it. So it's not the end. Yeah, I will be back for sure."
The Czech rued her inability to convert her chances in the final. She had five break-point opportunities in the opening set but could not convert any of them and then went on to lose the tie-breaker.
"I don't think I played really badly, but I just maybe could have gone a little bit more aggressive one or two rallies," she lamented.
Regardless of the result, what Kvitova calls her "second career" post-attack is back on track.
She put together an 11-match winning streak on the way to the final, including a title in Brisbane, and did not drop a set on her way to the decider at Melbourne Park.
Her run to the final will lift her to No. 2 in the world rankings today, behind only Osaka, equalling the career-high position she reached after winning her first Wimbledon title in 2011.
Such a comeback appeared unthinkable after the December 2016 attack. Australian media this week published gruesome photographs of her injured hand, with the flesh sliced open and the tip of the index finger almost cut off.
She said she did not know if she would ever hold a racket again.
"It's not 100 per cent and never will be. It's just how it is," she said.
"I'm just trying to take maximum from the minimum. I feel great. I'm playing great tennis. I don't think that I could really imagine at the time being this kind of player again."