Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses the things that Petra Kvitova had to endure over two years ago.
You’ll forgive us, but it’s been a slow news week.
The tennis season unfolds like a 12-month marathon that you need to run like a sprint—except for those few weeks and months after the Australian Open and before the start of the clay court season. During those weeks, sure we’ll get the occasional Miami tournament, or the Indian Wells “5th Grand Slam,” but by and large the sport crawls to a halt. And once you’re crawling, unless you have a looming return of prominent player X, or the retirement of player Y, well then you’ve got plenty of time to reflect on the previous weeks or months.
Or even years, in the case of this column today.
This past week, Petra Kvitova testified in court at the trial of Radim Zondra, the presumed suspect in the knife attack (and home invasion) she suffered in December 2016 in her native Czech Republic. Kvitova was testifying by video conference, thereby avoiding having to stand in the same room as the man who allegedly assaulted and injured her, which is a good thing, and well let’s just quote a big chunk from the Reuters report because the details paint a pretty clear picture of a nightmare.
The man had rung her doorbell at 8:30 a.m. posing as a workman come to inspect the hot water system in the flat, the Czech news website quoted her as saying.
He asked me to turn on the hot water tap and at that moment I had a knife against my neck. I grabbed it with both hands. I held the blade with my left hand. I snatched it away, I fell on the floor and there was blood everywhere,” she said.
Kvitova described how she tried to reach her mobile phone on the carpet but he pushed it away. She told him she needed to go to hospital and asked whether he wanted money.
“He asked how much I had. I said ten thousand crowns ($440) and he said ‘OK’. I gave him the money, he left and I called the ambulance and then the police,” she added.
Though she had felt no pain when the attacker cut her hand, Kvitova said: “When I saw the blood, I started blubbing.”
“All the fingers on my left hand had been cut, and the nerves in my thumb and index finger severed. Even today, the mobility is not 100 percent. There is no sensitivity in the tips (of my thumb and index finger).”
Fairly awful, terrifying and every other adjective you can think of, yes.
Here’s the part where we point out that Kvitova was ranked No. 11 in the world when this attack happened in 2016, then returned to action a mere five months later in May 2017 for the French Open, and finally here she is today, riding the high of a 2019 Australian Open finals appearance and equaling her career-best No. 2 ranking in what’s been an absolutely surprising turnaround.
Kvitova’s story is one of incredible resilience and resolve, going from a lack of sensitivity to the fingertips of her dominant left hand to now an-almost Grand Slam champion in Australia. Her return to the sport has been a shining light of hope and a beacon of joy, not to mention that the 28-year-old has managed to rival the best results of her career as quickly as she has; lest we forget that she had required four hours of surgery on her hand and that odds of her return to tennis were “very low” for “multiple reasons.”
But no, Kvitova made it back as good as ever, or a good enough approximation of that at least, and maybe she hasn’t managed to add to her collection of two major titles but it shouldn’t be too long before she does—provided, of course, that Naomi Osaka lets her. So all in all, good for Kvitova, definitely, the same way it was great to see Monica Seles reconquer the sport that was once hers before her terrifying on-court stabbing all those years ago.
In an ideal world, players like Kvitova and Seles wouldn’t need to be praised for having managed to overcome hell and nightmarish scenarios.
Unfortunately, we live in this awful world of ours, but one can only hope.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG