The 27-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion defied expectations in returning to competition despite suffering serious wounds to her playing left hand as she fought off a knife-wielding intruder at her home in the eastern Czech town of Prostejov in December 2016.
However, within months she had not only made a comeback but also won a title — the pre-Wimbledon tune-up event in Birmingham — and rounded off the Grand Slams with a quarter-final appearance in the US Open.
“Playing on the grass at Wimbledon (where she reached the second round) and getting a good result in the US Open was very important for me mentally, and for my confidence,” Kvitova told The Guardian newspaper.
“This year has been a rollercoaster. The beginning wasn’t very nice, so I’m really glad that it’s over. Now I can look at everything positively again.”
Kvitova, who reached a career high ranking of second in the world in December 2011, says she shrugged aside fears she would never play again.
“I did hear the rumours that I would never ever play again but I thought: ‘I will show them’,” said Kvitova, who has been playing since she was four.
“I was like: ‘Why are they saying this?’ It was very painful for me, it felt like they didn’t believe me.
“The week after surgery I asked my doctor: ‘Do you think I could play in Wimbledon this year?’ He didn’t answer for a while and then he said: ‘We are going to work on it and blah, blah, blah.’ I understood then that it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Kvitova, who has 20 titles to her credit, admits her hand is still not what it was.
“It will probably take more than a year to get full movement back, I’m not sure,” said Kvitova, who is presently ranked 29 in the world.
“For tennis and for life, it’s good.
“I am happy that (throughout the recovery) I was always looking forward to the better tomorrows.”
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) December 5, 2017
Kvitova, who was told last month police had shelved the investigation as they had hit a dead end in identifying her assailant, says she has grown to love her ‘new hand’.
“I have started to live with my new hand,” said Kvitova, who will kick off 2018 in the WTA tournament in Brisbane, Australia.
“I’ve started to try to like it, to love it and that’s how I am going to take it. It’s my hand and I am just happy that I have all of my fingers.”
Ajla Tomljanovic admits it’s “the worst feeling” having to retire from a final but the Croatian still managed to give a classy runner-up speech, paying tribute to Belinda Bencic, who defeated her to claim the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge title in Dubai on Saturday.
Tomljanovic retired while down 4-6 in the Dubai final due to a groin injury she picked up at the end of her semi-final the previous day.
“I just felt my groin in the previous match, like two points before the finish,” the 24-year-old told Sport360.
“It was a sharp pain. I thought today, sleeping through the night and kind of letting it recover it would be okay but it just kept getting worse the longer it was going on.
“And yeah, against a player like Belinda you have to be fully ready to run and play and when you’re kind of thinking about, that you’re hurting and stuff, it’s tough to play. I hate retiring, even more in the finals, it’s probably the worst feeling but it is what it is.”
Tomljanovic started her season end of February, unranked, following a 13-month hiatus due to shoulder injury, and will now rise to 118 in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“Looking back I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come with my game, mentally, I think I’ve set up a pretty good base for next year,” she added.
During her runner-up speech, Tomljanovic apologised to the fans for retiring, and congratulated Bencic on her impressive comeback with the Swiss also spending several months sidelines this year due to wrist surgery.
“First I just want to apologise for not finishing the match, trust me I probably feel worse than all of you,” said Tomljanovic, addressing the crowd.
“But I just want to congratulate Belinda and her team on a great couple weeks and just her overall comeback, I thought it was pretty impressive. She’s on a what? 15-match winning streak? And thanks for saying that in the warm-up,” she jokingly told the tournament director. “Like that made me feel great.”
Tomljanovic will begin her 2018 season in Brisbane followed by the Australian Open.
Belinda Bencic will spend Christmas on a plane from the UAE to Australia but the Swiss youngster is not complaining, especially after she wrapped up her 2017 season with a title victory at the $100k Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai on Saturday.
Bencic finished the year by claiming a 15th consecutive match win and a third title in a row by defeating Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic, who retired with a groin injury while down 4-6 in their final on Saturday afternoon.
“Definitely not the way I wanted to win. I’m very sad for Ajla but hopefully it’s really nothing too bad and just precautionary,” said the 20-year-old Bencic, who came back from wrist surgery in September and has won four trophies since.
“I won the tournament so I’m very happy about it, and obviously to finish the year with a win is great, that’s the first time I think I’ve done it so it feels good. I’m playing really good now so I’m happy about it.”
In the Dubai final, Bencic was the first to save break points in the match but inched ahead 4-3 by breaking the Tomljanovic serve. The Croatian then took an off-court medical timeout to treat a groin problem and broke back for 4-all upon her return. But Tomljanovic, clearly hampered in her movement, was broken at love the following game and she was forced to retire after dropping the opening set.
The 24-year-old apologised to the fans, who filled up the stand at the Habtoor Grand resort, for not being able to complete the final.
“First I just want to apologise for not finishing the match, trust me I probably feel worse than all of you,” Tomljanovic said.
The former top-50 player spent 13 months sidelined with a shoulder injury before returning to action end of last February. She was unranked when she started her season but will now rise to 118 when the new rankings come out on Monday.
“It wasn’t meant to be today,” said Tomljanovic. “It’s hard to look at positives now because all I want to do is play, you train to play the finals and today I couldn’t do it. The worst thing is I felt like I was playing really well and if I was healthy I could have had a good chance for a title and it sucks but if I wake up tomorrow feeling better than today it’s going to be a positive.”
Bencic, who was recovering from surgery between April and September, says the tournament was part of her preseason preparations and is glad that it paid off.
“It was a good preparation I think. I practiced more during the tournament and I feel better every match, physically as well, just the confidence, just my shots, and for sure I want to have now some days off then continue my preparation and then fly to Australia,” said Bencic, who will move up 24 spots and land at 74 when the new rankings come out.
The former world No. 7 begins her season by teaming up with Roger Federer representing Switzerland at the Hopman Cup in Perth (December 30 – January 6).
Bencic will spend the next 10 days training in Dubai, where several WTA players are also practicing including her good friend Kristina Mladenovic, Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova and Greece’s Maria Sakkari.
“I’m actually going to be on the plane on Christmas. I’m staying here (in Dubai). I don’t think it’s very smart to go there and back,” said Bencic.
“It’s not my first time where I spend Christmas (in the heat) I spent a lot of time in Florida as well, so I’m used to it.”
Will she be hitting the practice courts with Mladenovic?
“Yes of course, we texted already and we’re going to see each other and hang out. We haven’t seen each other for so long but we’re in contact all the time. Also with the other players, it’s good to practice,” added Bencic.
With four titles captured within the last three months, surely Bencic will treat herself to something special to celebrate.
“I actually treated myself already, I went to the mall with my mum and I bought her some presents and everything, she’ll know on Christmas. I don’t really need much, I’ll just have a day off at the pool, not too much and that’s going to be a treat I think,” she said with a smile.