Tennis: Petra Kvitova proves to be ultimate survivor as she lives to fight another day at Roland Garros

Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic in action during the women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, on May 28, 2018.
Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic in action during the women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, on May 28, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - Petra Kvitova came within three points of falling in the first round of tennis' French Open, before three successive aces and her nerves of steel carried her to a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over little-known Paraguayan Veronica Cepede Royg on Monday (May 28).

The Czech, who suffered career-threatening injuries on her playing left hand after being attacked in her home by a knife-wielding intruder in December 2016, arrived in Paris on the back of an 11-match winning streak.

But Cepede Royg came close to snapping that run as she edged 5-4 and 0-15 ahead on Kvitova's serve in the third set.

But the woman who proved even her surgeon wrong by coming back to play top-level tennis just five months after the attack unleashed three successive aces to survive that scare.

She was soon saluting the crowd with a raised clenched fist as she broke in the next game, before wrapping up victory to set up a second-round meeting with Spain's Lara Arruabarrena.

The 28-year-old is one of the favourites to secure a maiden Roland Garros crown after winning four titles this season, including on clay in Prague and Madrid.

"I've won 12 matches straight on clay, but I'm still a long way from Rafa," she said in reference to Rafael Nadal's bid for an 11th men's singles crown.