Wednesday 21 February 2018

Kvitova triumphs five months on from knife attack

Kvitova: Emotional return. Photo: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
Kvitova: Emotional return. Photo: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Eleanor Crooks

Petra Kvitova made an emotional and victorious return to tennis on the opening day of action at the French Open, but World No 1 Angelique Kerber was knocked out.

Five months after suffering career-threatening injuries when she was stabbed by an intruder in her home, Kvitova looked sharp and eager in a 6-3 6-2 triumph over Julia Boserup.

Her parents, Jiri and Pavla, and brothers, Jiri and Libor, were in the stands on Court Philippe Chatrier, with her team decked out in matching T-shirts saying 'Courage, Belief, Pojd ('Come on' in Czech)'.

The only disappointment was the usual sparse early crowd on Roland Garros' main court.

The 27-year-old, who suffered injuries to all the fingers on her dominant left hand, said on Friday she had won her biggest fight just by being able to play tennis again.

"I feel great, obviously," she said after the match.

"I won for the second time, if I can say. It was a nice and really heartwarming welcome on Chatrier."

Being back on court was the main thing, but the competitive juices soon kicked back in. Kvitova took the first point with a forehand winner and swiftly moved into a 3-0 lead. Boserup, a 25-year-old American ranked 85, made it more competitive after that without ever threatening a comeback.

There were a few signs of Kvitova's long absence - this was her first match since November 12 - but the good far outweighed the bad and she struck her signature forehand with familiar clout.

Kvitova first picked up a racket again in March, 12 weeks after the attack, and only began practising properly at the beginning of May.

She had originally targeted a return at Wimbledon, but made quicker progress than anyone had dared hope.

The hand is still not perfect, but crucially for the 15th seed she remains pain free.

There was nothing positive for Kerber to take from her 6-2 6-2 loss to Ekaterina Makarova, as she became the first top seed in the women's draw to lose in the opening round at Roland Garros in the Open era.

The German has had a miserable season and is not a fan of clay, so the result came as no real surprise.

Kerber won the Australian Open and US Open titles last year and also reached the final at Wimbledon.

She said: "This year, the expectations are much bigger."

Eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, a potential title contender, defeated Christina McHale 7-5 6-4 to reach round two.

Irish Independent

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