Petra Kvitov: I didn’t know if I’d be able to hold a racket again

She acquired Wimbledon, twice, and was tip-off for the top until an intruder with a pierce threatened to end Petra Kvitovs tennis busines. So why does she feel lucky?

When Petra Kvitova received her trophy after the final of the Australian Open this January, the crowd hooted and roared. Anybody who had not watched the coincide would assume she had prevailed. In happening, she had just been beaten by 21 -year-old Naomi Osaka. But this moment was perhaps the two-time Wimbledon champion’s greatest achievement.

Two times earlier, the 29 -year-old Czech had been attacked by an intruder with a knife in her suite in Prostejov. She campaigned him off, but accepted career-threatening hurts to her left end- her playing hand. This was her first grand slam final since the two attacks. Accepting the runner-up plate, she tearfully thanked her crew, saying:” You lodge with me where reference is didn’t know if I would even be able to hold a scheme again .”

We meet at the Spartatennis club in Prague, where she is training for next month’s Wimbledon. This is where the Czech Republic’s top tennis professionals come to practise. In the car park, there is a huge advertising hoarding showing off the players who have learned, or at least refined, their trade now: current women’s world amount three Karolina Pliskova, her twin Kristyna( I last-minute look the sisters affecting ferociously at each other ), onetime Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych and, of course, Kvitova.

She has made an astonishing recovery, returning to professional tennis only five months after the attack and triumphing eight singles names over the past two years- more than any other woman, rising to be graded nature number two( she is currently at number five ). Kvitova missed the recent French Open because of injury, but is determined to be fit for Wimbledon, for which she is currently second favourite behind Serena Williams.

Kvitova is tall and spectacular, with big, adventurous, Picasso-esque facets- sees blue as cornflowers, long directly nose, perfect grey teeth. She is known as one of the friendliest, most friendly musicians on the tennis circuit. Today she smiles readily as she tells me how stimulated she is to be back, and how much she is enjoying her play. Yet it does not take long to detect just how immense an effect the attack had, and still has, on her life.

At a press conference held in Prague three days after the attack; it took a four-hour operation to repair her severed nerves and gashed digits. Photograph: AP

I ask if she feels she has been lucky or unhappy.” I was lucky. Definitely. I was so lucky in an unhappy statu. To be honest, I could have been in the hrbitov .” I inspect blank. She does a Czech-English translation on her telephone and elapses it to me. “< em> Hrbitov – cemetery. I could be in the cemetery ,” she says.” Yes, emphatically .”

Has coming so close to death changed her?” Yes, it’s changed me, sure as shooting. In a good way and a bad method .” Having frisked professional tennis for a decade, she judges she had started to take it for conceded.” Sometimes when you’re on tour for so many years, you feel flat or unmotivated, without drive .” She talks about how draining the pre-match nerves would be, how spending the travelling was, how involving it was on the body, and how often she’d care she was at home with her feet up, watching the telly. Then, when after the attack she did find herself at home watching the telly, it didn’t take her long to realise how much she missed her sport- and how privileged she was to play at such a level.” When I sat on the sofa and realise the girls frisking tennis, and I wasn’t able to, I simply couldn’t watch .”

She says she is now better at putting circumstances in perspective. In the past she would angst about the interesting thing.” I was very accentuated, but now I’m more tighten. I admire small things more, like beautiful brave, being with my family and my friends. If there’s a big problem, I do care, but if it’s a small, stupid act, I’m like, yeah, whatever .”

Kvitova grew up in the remote Moravian-Silesian town of Fulnek, 300 km from Prague. Her mother Pavla, who worked for a white goods company, was soothe and manner, she says; her leader Jiri was an uncompromising maths professor who asked the very best his daughter and her two older brothers, both academically and on the tennis court. He made Petra to play every day after academy. While her friends went to the pool to tighten, she was hitting ball after chunk back at her leader. It’s not that he was training her to be a professional, she says, it’s just that he was scared she would become a waster.” He never wanted us to be in the square smoking or taking drugs .” Did she ever tell him to cut her some slack; that she just wanted to hang out with her friends?” Yes, of course. We had numerous conversations. I wanted to be with my friends so badly, but he was just too tough .”

Her brothers are also talented tennis payers, but Kvitova says they didn’t have the mental stamina to compete at the highest level. They went to university and completed “masters degrees”, while Kvitova turned professional immediately she had finished secondary school. At the age of 21, she triumphed Wimbledon as eighth grain, beating odds-on favourite Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Did she not find Sharapova’s grunting( merciless even by her guidelines that day) off-putting? She chuckles.” No. You don’t notice at the time, you’re just focusing on your continue and on the ball. But when I’m watching it on Tv, I hate it .”

At the French Open in 2017, her first competitive equal after the two attacks five months earlier. Photograph: Getty Images

When she was presented with the winner’s plate, she looked bewildered, as if she couldn’t relatively believe what she had done. She gestures when I mention it. “Exactly,” she says.” I was lost somewhere .”

Kvitova has had an unusual vocation, both in what she has achieved and what she hasn’t. After that first Wimbledon win, her hero and fellow Czech, nine-times Wimbledon singles supporter Martina Navratilova, told me that she concluded Kvitova could get close to her annal. But she contended with additional burdens of anticipation. She continued to acquire minor accolades and staying in the top 10, but another grand slam title evaded her.” I was only 21 when I won, and abruptly beings were saying I was going to earn so many more- I wasn’t ready for it. I was like, OK, so now I “re going to have to” earn every parallel .”

Three years later, in 2014, she did win another slam– again, Wimbledon. The comfort was tangible. After playing the acquiring film, she fell on her back and bathed in the glorification. Kvitova had pulverised the Canadian Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-0 with an stupefying presentation of superpower and accuracy, touching 28 wins and communicating Bouchard packing in 55 times- one of the fastest Wimbledon finals ever. She says this acquire intended a lot because it pictured she wasn’t a one-hit wonder.” Beings sometimes say,’ Yeah, she acquired a grand slam: she only woke up in a good depression .’ But to triumph two of them, that changes it. Also it was a tough depict- I had to beat three Czech daughters to prevail .”

I ask why the Czech Republic is displaying so many fine actors- three of the current top 20 women are Czech. Kvitova knows her tennis history. She steers me through the Czech greats, starting with Jaroslav Drobny, who earned three grand slams( the French Open, twice, and Wimbledon) in the 50 s, then on to Jan Kodes, who won the same three grand slams in the 70 s. In the 80 s, Navratilova predominated the women’s game, while Ivan Lendl was macrocosm No 1 for 270 weeks.

When Czechoslovakia was part of the eastern bloc, tennis was a means of escape, Kvitova says.” They could travel through tennis. Otherwise they stayed in Czechoslovakia. After Martina and Lendl, every boy represented. They say it’s an expensive play, but at the end of the working day you time need a scheme and projectile, and you can play against the wall .” These epoches, she says, it’s a virtuous circle- the more good participates there are, the greater competition, and the more it motivates the new generation of Czech players.

With her parent in 2014, after her second Wimbledon win, shaping Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-0, in precisely 55 hours. Photograph: Reuters

She hasn’t won another grand slam since 2014. In 2015, she suffered from glandular fever. In 2016, she frisked disastrously in all four majors, and at the end of that year was attacked. When she reached the final of the Australian Open in January this year, it was the first time she had gone beyond the quarter-final in a major tournament since prevail Wimbledon. While the experts agreed Kvitova was unplayable on her daytime, she was infuriatingly inconsistent. Some said she lacked the desire to be a great champion, but when I query her about this, she says it isn’t true- until the attack she was, if anything, too hard-bitten on herself; she wanted to be one of the Czech greats like Navratilova and Lendl. These epoches, she applies herself under less pressure.

There is another positive that has come out of her trauma, she says.” I learned a lot about myself. I always knew I was a fighter on special courts, but I didn’t know I was a fighter off special courts as well .” Physically?” No, emotionally .” Had she ever had to fight before?” No , not even at academy .” Was she surprised to hear her backbone?” Subsequentlies, yes, because he could have killed me .”

After her attacker had participated in the flat at 8.30 am, pretending to be a plumber, he asked her to turn on the sea in her bathroom. She did, and that’s when he took out a knife with a 10 -inch blade and introduced it to her neck. Kvitova grabbed the spear with both entrusts, containing the blade with her left hand, and managed to wrestle it away from him. In doing so, every digit on her left end was rent and the guts in her thumb and index finger were separated. She descended on the flooring. When she reached for her mobile phone, he propagandized it away. There was blood everywhere, she says, and she was still facing the intruder, who have demonstrated no signaling of wanting to leave.” My mental strength came in that minute. I tried to get him to leave my flat. So I started to speak with him and then he left .”

She can’t remember how long it made- five to 10 minutes. Something stunning must have happened in those moments, I say, because he may well have decided to kill her at that point- he could see all the blood, he knew he would go to jail for a long time if caught, and she could describe him perfectly. She gestures.” Precisely. And he certainly is recognized that I was going to the police, so, yes, he could have killed me .”

What did you say to him?” I offered him coin .” He asked how much she had and she said 10,000 crowns( PS348 ).” I said,’ Are you going to take the money and leave ?’ He demanded go. He told me he needed time to think. I said,’ Well, I don’t have the time for you to think about it here, I have to go to the hospital, so I’m going to give you the money .’ So “hes been gone”,’ OK’ and then he left .” She comes to a stop.” If he had had the time to think, in the end he would have killed me .”

‘ Sometimes I have this huge fear that somebody is at my back .’ Photograph: Frank Bauer/ The Guardian. Hair and makeup: Eva Svobodova

Kvitova declares she was surprised by her self-possession. She phoned the ambulance and the police, then called medical doctors and told him to call a hand surgeon she knew. Was she aware how poorly injured she was?” I didn’t want to look .” As she talks, I stare at that left end. It ogles excellent. She turns it over for me. All five digits have tender disfigured rivulets running down them. Again, she says how lucky she was. The action previous four hours. Even today, the mobility is not 100% and there is no feeling in the tips of her digit and index finger.

Did you always think you would play again? “Yes,” she says decisively. But then she pauses.” I did have a brief was considered that I wouldn’t. I said, I’m still alive so I’m going to do something else. So I started to study communications at university. I reviewed, if I don’t play again, I need to do something with my life .”

Kvitova says her fellow tennis musicians were very supportive, casting sends and videos on social media, and there was an psychological reunion when she represented at the French Open in 2017. Still, something had changed.” They were looking at me a little bit differently. I don’t think they knew how to speak to me, how they should be, how they should behave. Nobody certainly knows what you are feeling .” If they’d questioned, what would she have said to them? “‘ Just be regular .’ That was my main goal, that I could be the same as before. The same tennis participate and girl , not a casualty. That’s all I wanted to be again, which I have managed now. Of course, I have times when it’s really bad, but that’s normal. I want to be known for my tennis , not because someone attacked me .”

It’s remarkable that you have discovered so many inner strengths, I say. “Yes,” she says calmly,” but I haven’t told you the negative side more .” I ability she doesn’t quite know where to start.” I didn’t go out for so long. I just stayed with beings I know, extremely my family, because I didn’t trust anybody. And that is the very bad thing about it .” Isn’t it inevitable that she would go through a period like that? Suddenly those big-hearted blue-blooded noses start to well up.” I don’t confidence in people now. Specially mortals .” She chuckles through her weepings.” That is why I’m single, probably. I am trusting of people I have known for a long time, but I’m not particularly relying of those persons who I have just known a short while. I can’t go in a taxi alone with followers. When I’m in the city or in wall street, I’m approximately ranging. Sometimes, I have this huge fear that somebody is at my back. It’s hard .”

Has she attended a healer?” Yes. I think it was helpful. I don’t have therapy any more .” Does she foresee she was too trusting, I query: many people wouldn’t tell strangers into their apartment without an appointed.” I don’t think I was , no. When I was walking, I’d never know who was due to come around to do some wield. For me, it was natural to open the door, because it could have been the doping beings .” Professional tennis actors have to provide a one-hour window every day, when they will be available for stimulant testing.

Twelve months after the attack, 33 -year-old Radim Zondra was arrested; in March this year he was imprisoned of serious battery and illegal entry into her apartment, and imprisoned for eight years( he was by then acting another prison term for a separate offence ). It was stated that he hadn’t specifically designed Kvitova.

Has the verdict easy her knowledge?” I think so. I always missed him to be in jail. So, yes, for me, it’s good that they imprisoned him, and he’s there .” Has it been cathartic? Now it’s her turn to look at me blankly. I try again: does she feel she can breathe again now he is in prison?” I didn’t feel like that at the time. For me the worst was when I had to go to law and give evidence .” She testified in a separate room at the Brno regional courthouse, to avoid seeing Zondra.” Afterwards I felt much better. But giving evidence was startling- I wouldn’t said that he hoped that on anybody .”

At the Australian Open final in January, after losing to Naomi Osaka. Photograph: AP

Gradually, Kvitova says, she is regaining her objectivity, but it is a sluggish, unpleasant process.” I stood with their own families for 3 month, and now I am living by myself in Prague. The first months were tough. I’d be in bed and if I heard noise levels from the lavatory, I’d be thinking, oh my God .” She wishes to relearn to live by herself, though.” I wanted to be me again. It was terrible that Mum and Dad, my brothers, my coach-and-fours, had to do everything for me .” Do they feel you’ve converted? She thinks about it.” It’s an interesting question. I’ve never asked them, and they never “re trying to tell me” .”


One thing that rejoices Kvitova about representing again is that the women’s game is changing: she is convinced it is more exciting than it has ever been. Yes, she says, the men’s game has been anointed by an entire generation of enormous, but it has been so predictable, with the semi-final of virtually every major tournament contested by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Look at the women’s game today, she says.” The first 18 deeds of its first year were prevailed by 18 different musicians. It’s unbelievable. The gaps between the players are getting smaller and smaller. It’s really about the working day. Sometimes you wake up and “youre feeling” astonishing, and sometimes so crappy. We have those hormones, right ?” She giggles.” The chaps can just think about the tennis- they are a little bit different to us .”

She accepts the old guard is changing, and says there is a greater camaraderie than when she started out. For years there were famously bitter struggles , notably between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.” The cupboard area is more free now. Maybe there’s no pecking order, maybe it’s just the generational switching. It’s not as emphasized. There is not as much hate .”

Twenty-six years ago, 19 -year-old Monica Seles was knifed in the back on law at the Hamburg Open, by a humankind obsessed with her great adversary Steffi Graf. It remains the most scandalizing incident associated with tennis, maybe with professional play. Seles was a phenomenon- she had already acquired eight grand slams and it was predicted that she would go on to break every chronicle. She returned to the game two years later, and experienced some success, but won simply one more major tournament.

I ask Kvitova if she has spoken to Seles since the attack. Her face illuminations up.” I have, actually. She came up to me last year at a pre-Wimbledon party. We’d never “ve met before”. We said how much we admired each other for coming back after everything we’d been through .” Again, she glances mournful.” Unexpectedly I read somebody who had been in a very similar situation, somebody who understood. For her it happened on law, for me it was the accommodation. For her the court was an unlucky place, for me it was the accommodation .”

It’s not surprising that Seles strove when she returned, I say.” Yes, but she prevailed a grand slam after it !” Kvitova says instantly. Her letter is clear. She still has her heart on that prize, and a third Wimbledon title would do just nicely, thank you.

As we get up to leave, I keep telling her that returning to the game as she has is a wonderful achievement. She declares it hasn’t been easy.” An interrogation like this reminded us what happened here .” I feel guilty about taking her back to the moment, but as I start to apologise, it becomes clear that I don’t need to.” Talking about it reminded us what I have come through ,” she says.” It reminded us that I should be proud of myself .”

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