PARIS, France - Petra Kvitova is back.
After a Dec. 20 knife attack by an intruder in her home, the two-time Wimbledon champion returns to professional tennis in Paris this week, making her first appearance of 2017 at the French Open.
“I am delighted to welcome Petra back to the Tour and see her compete again," said WTA CEO Steve Simon. "Petra is a true champion on and off the court. Her resilience and fighting spirit are beyond admirable.”
Kvitova will face American and World No.86 Julia Boserup in the first round in their first career meeting.
The day of the attack, Kvitova underwent three hours and 45 minutes of surgery by Dr. Radek Kebrle, and had her left, playing hand in a protective splint for eight weeks.
In the months since, she's followed an intense rehabilitation process, after beginning light physical training over a 10-day period from Jan. 21.
"From the beginning, Petra started work on the bike and then, once the stress fracture in her foot had fully healed, we started to run slowly," said David Vydra, Kvitova's fitness coach. "We did some balancing exercises and when she was able to take the first cast off, we started to move the fingers and the wrist. We did a lot of work - I was trying to use this opportunity to make her stronger than ever - especially when I saw how motivated she was. We tried to find the balance for everything, in tennis and fitness.
"She practiced with her hand and body all day long...she started the day at 8 AM and finished everything by 8 PM."
As her skin healed, Kvitova worked on her physical condition with Vydra and tennis coach Jiri Vanek while protecting her hand. Beginning in later February and into early March, she started to play table tennis/badminton and shadow swing, and after 12 weeks, Kvitova started progressing with the tennis racquet.
She began to practice on clay courts in Monaco at the beginning of May. Her gradual but stable increase of workload enabled Dr. Kebrle to give her the green light to participate at Roland Garros.
"It was really tough for all of us, but Petra stayed strong," said Vanek. "The first few months were the worst because we didn’t know how the hand would respond to work, but we were positive. When we couldn’t do anything with the hand, David did a lot of work on her fitness. When she was able to hold something, we started to hold glasses, soft balls, just gripping them - then we started to hold the racquet; from the beginning, it was just for one minute and then we started to build up the time.
"We played with very soft balls from the net and then tried to move further and further back, closer to the baseline. Before she could grip the racquet, we played with her right hand, we also played other sports like table tennis and badminton with her right hand."
Though the realistic timeline for a return to tennis was six months after the attack and Roland Garros is very close to that, Kvitova was confirmed to be ahead of schedule in her rehab.
Added Vanek: "I was surprised by how well she responded and how motivated she was to come back. Her motivation was huge and although it was a tough experience, Petra was always inspired by the challenge of playing again.”
Though she is currently ranked World No.16, Kvitova finished 2016 ranked No.11. As Serena Williams opted out as a designated “Top 10” player under the Years of Service Rule, Kvitova was elevated to the Top 10 List for this season.
As a Top 10 List player, Kvitova will be accepted into the main draw of any 2017 WTA tournament she enters by the entry deadline, regardless of her ranking. She also can receive unlimited wild cards in singles and doubles as a Year-End Top 10 player, and has also earned unlimited singles wildcard nominations as a former Grand Slam champion per WTA rules.
The Czech is making her ninth appearance at Roland Garros. She holds a 20-8 career singles record at the tournament, and her best career result was a semifinal in 2012.