MELBOURNE, Australia – WTA World No.6 Petra Kvitova has hailed the faith that her team had in her after she reached the Australian Open final with a 7-6(2), 6-0 victory over Danielle Collins.
It is five years since the Czech last competed in a major showpiece, when she won Wimbledon in 2014, yet she has overcome much since then, including a serious hand surgery after she was injured during a knife attack in her apartment in Prague in December 2016.
Back in the big time, she thanked the loyalty of those close to her, who have shown unshakable belief that she could reach the very top again.
“I don’t think that many people believed that I could do that again, to stand on the court and play tennis to that kind of level,” she said.
“It was just a few of them, I think. I’m very happy to have those few around me. And it definitely feels great – I hope for them as well, and for my family and everyone who was there when I needed it.
“It’s been five years. That’s why I worked hard to be back here. It tastes great.”
The 28-year-old went into the mental strength she required to overcome the trauma surrounding her assault.
“It really wasn’t a nice time to be dealing with everything,” she said. “It wasn’t only physical but mentally it was very tough as well. It really took me a while to believe.
“I wasn’t confident about being alone anywhere. I remember the first time I was alone in the locker room in Prague in the club, and I went to my team and said: ‘Well, it was the first time I was alone there, and it was good today that I really felt OK.’
“It was a lot of work with the hand, with the recovery and treatment. I think my life in sport helped me a lot with that. I just set up my mind that I really wanted to come back and I just did everything.
“I was practicing with the hand two or three times per day, which I don’t know if a normal person would do, but I needed the hand to be back on court. Not only on the court but to be able to kind live a normal life.
“Those three months were very, very tough. I found out recently that my doctor really wasn’t happy with my hand during the second month because the scars were very, very tight and hard, and I couldn't really do anything with that. Luckily, he didn't tell me during that period.
“So I think that the mental side was there. I really needed to be strong and not really think too negatively about it, but of course those thoughts were there, as well.
“It's been long journey.”
Kvitova will go into Saturday’s match against Naomi Osaka off the back of a tremendous record in finals, in which she boasts a 26-7 winning record, including an ongoing run that is 8-0.
“It feels better knowing this, that I do have a better perfecting of winning rather than losing,” she said. “Every final is different because every time there is a different opponent or a different time or place.
“And this is different, too. It’s a Grand Slam.
“As I said on court, I love playing finals. I love playing on these big stages. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Kvitova has won both previous major finals she has taken part in – both at Wimbledon – and she has the added incentive of playing for the WTA World No.1 ranking when she meets Osaka.