Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 20 JUNE
Five months after suffering a potentially career-ending injury in a knife attack in her own home, Petra Kvitova is back on a tennis court and she just cannot stop smiling.
The two-time Wimbledon singles champion will make her comeback at the French Open in Paris, she announced at a packed press conference at Roland Garros on Friday.
"I have already won my biggest fight,” a beaming Kvitova said. “Not many people believe that I can play tennis again.”
Kvitova sustained a serious injury on her left playing hand when she tried to defend herself in a fight with a knife-wielding intruder in her apartment on the morning of 20 December in Prostejov, Czech Republic shortly before Christmas.
The injury was so severe doctors had to repair tendons on all five digits of her left hand as well as two nerves during an operation that lasted almost four hours that same evening.
“I felt like the tennis was taken away from me, and it wasn't my decision,” said Kvitova, one of the most popular players on the WTA Tour both on and off the court. “Suddenly I couldn't do what I love,” she said, before adding “I see life a little bit from the different angle.
Her surgeon, Radek Kebrle, had predicted at the time she wouldn’t be able to return to a tennis court for at least six months.
But the former world No.2 beat the odds to come back one month ahead of schedule.
“The tennis is a joy now,” said Kvitova, who enrolled at a communications and social media course at a Czech universtity during her time away. “From the beginning when I hit a nice forehand, I was so happy inside, and I was, like, Wow, it's really great that I do have it still.”
Although Kvitova said she didn’t sleep very well in the days after the attack and has been staying with friends and family since and is a bit more careful going out in public, things have got better over time.
“I don't really have nightmares,” she said.
Although it was a clean cut injury and only two fingers suffered digital nerve damage, all five fingers were injured – meaning that no finger was able to help the injured ones. There was high risk of adhesions and finger stiffness and much would depend on the patient’s cooperation and motivation, according to Kebrle.
“The injury was horrific,” doctor Kebrle said in comments distributed by Kvitova’s press team on Friday. “The chances of Petra’s hand healing well enough for her to be able to play tennis again were very low for multiple reasons.”
After having her hand in a protective splint for eight weeks, Kvitova underwent an intense rehabilitation process that started at the end of January with light physical training.
“After two weeks I took off the splint, and I started to rehab actively,” Kvitova said. “So it was just easy, small moves with my fingers. It was not really a big deal. I can't still move them fully. Every kind of small millimeter made me happy.”
A month later, as her skin healed, Kvitova started to play table tennis and badminton. Twelve weeks after the attack, she started to play tennis again, with her work load being increased very slowly to make sure there wasn’t any inflammation on her hand.
She began practising on the clay in Monte Carlo early May and with her hand able to deal with the extra work load, her surgeon gave the green light for a return to professional tennis a month ahead of schedule.
“We tried to stay positive but of course there were some tough moments,” said Kvitova’s fitness coach, David Vydra. “She practised with her hand and body all day long. In Lanzarote, she started the day at 8AM and finished everything by 8PM.”
“It was really tough for all of us, but Petra stayed strong,” said Kvitova's coach, Jiri Vanek. “The first few months were the worst because we didn’t know how the hand would respond to work, but we were positive.”
Kvitova, who faces 86th-ranked American Julia Boserup in the first round of Roland Garros, said it will take time before her hand is back to normal.
“Of course the hand doesn't have that power and the strength yet, but I'm working on it,” Kvitova said. “Hopefully one day will be everything perfect. But we never know still.”
She added: “I like challenges. That was one of the biggest, of course. So I stayed in life and I have all my fingers, I can play tennis and I can be here and be in the draw.”