MELBOURNE, Australia -- One of the longest and most competitive Australian Open finals broke the way of her opponent on Saturday, but despite the tight defeat, Petra Kvitova is still viewing as many of the positives as she can after making it back to a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2014.
"It's hurting a lot today," said the two-time Wimbledon champion, after her 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-4 loss to Naomi Osaka. "I wanted to win and have the trophy. But I think I already won two years ago," she added, referring to her successful comeback from a home invasion in late 2016, which left her with her serving hand severely injured and doctors unsure if she could ever return to top-flight tennis.
"For me, it's amazing," the 29-year-old Czech continued. "I think I still don't really realize that I played the final. I think, I mean, I've been through many, many things, not really great ones. As I said on the court, I didn't know if I'm going to hold the racquet again. I'm holding it, so that's good.
"You know how the women's tennis is. Everybody can just beat anyone, which it's good and it's bad on the other side. That's the tennis. It's beautiful sport. I'm happy to be playing it.
"Hopefully the downs will be less than the ups. I think I already did much better than the last year. It's just the first month of the year, so it's great."
The high-quality final was determined by a few points in each set as both power players blasted their shots with aplomb. Kvitova was outplayed in the first-set tiebreak, but the Czech overcame three championship points at 5-3 in the second set to reel off four straight games from there and force a decisive final set.
"When I look back, I did have my chances in the first set when I had 40-0 on her serve," said Kvitova. "I did have a few breakpoints. I don't think I played something really badly, but I just think I should maybe go a little bit more aggressive one or two rallies.
"I really [fought] back in the second set. I'm proud of myself in that case. And, yeah, the third set was just one break. That's how the tennis is. It's the final. I think you just will get few chances."
Kvitova had high praise for Osaka, the new World No.1. "I think women's tennis is very open. You really never know who's going to be there. But definitely [Osaka's] playing a great game. She's really big player, as she showed in the results, winning U.S. Open and Australian Open, it's amazing achievement.
"I think that she is putting the pressure, of course, when she's standing nearby the baseline, for sure. She likes to play aggressive. When she's standing closer, it's more aggressive. She has a good length of the balls, as well. Sometimes it's very hard just to push it back. That's probably what she likes to play. She is good in that."
Kvitova was 21 when she won her first major title at Wimbledon in 2011 -- the same age as Osaka is now. "It took me a while to kind of get used to," she said of her then-new status as a Grand Slam champion.
"I think it's always a bit pressure from outside, as well, from yourself. You just want to play better. You're thinking like you have to win every single match because you just won a Grand Slam. That's how I was thinking actually. I put a bit more pressure than I should.
"You just need to get used to the attention as well. Every time you are stepping on the court, you are kind of favorite of the match. The other players just want to beat you because you're playing well."
Even though Kvitova was unable to claim victory and the World No.1 ranking alongside it on Saturday in Melbourne, she looks kindly upon her return to a Grand Slam final and a resurgence to her previous career-high ranking of World No.2, up from her current ranking of No.6.
"I wanted to be back on my greatest level probably as I played before. I knew it will be very, very difficult because my hand, it's not 100 percent, and never will be. It's just how it is. I'm just trying to take maximum from the minimum.
"I feel great. I'm playing great tennis. I don't think that I could really imagine the time to be kind of this player again.
"I wanted to be back stronger, that's for sure. I was pretty close, but pretty far. So I need one more step to hold [a major trophy]. I think in a couple weeks I'm going to be back and play and work and whatever it takes, I'm going to do that."