Barely five months after the attack which threatened her career, Petra Kvitova’s first match back was a triumph on every level.
On a normal day, a 6-3, 6-2 first round win by a two-time Wimbledon champion and current world No.16 over a player ranked 70 places lower would generate little comment; and nor, when the higher-ranked player triumphed, would that person usually drop their racket in disbelief, tears in their eyes on and on their cheeks, while the crowd rose in acclaim. Petra Kvitova’s opening day triumph on Court Philippe-Chatrier was the exception. In circumstances that were anything but routine, she produced a victory over not just her opponent Julia Boserup but very much more.
The word “courage” is frequently bandied about idly in the sporting context, when what is actually meant is mere resourcefulness, or ingenuity. This was one of the rare occasions when it was not only reasonable, but essential to apply it. Plenty of knowledgeable onlookers feared Kvitova would be either unable to complete a full match here, or that the result might have embarrassed her. Boserup, they worried, would occupy the unenviable role of The One To Defeat Our Beloved Heroine on her return, unforgiven for exercising the essential unsentimental competitive desire to defeat your opponent no matter what the circumstances.
“This match was special to me,” she acknowledged afterwards. “It wasn’t really about the game today. I’ve said before that I’ve already won the biggest fight, and now I won for the second time. It was such a heart-warming welcome on Chatrier, and everyone who helped me through the difficult time was there, including my family. Yesterday I was wondering what it would be like, and I couldn’t imagine it. I thought I might cry when I stepped on court, which I didn’t do. But at the end I didn’t have to control my emotions any more, so a few tears.
“I had no pain in my hand – it felt a little weird after the rain [a five-minute delay near the start of the second set], but that went after one point. I promised my doctor, who gave me the green light to play here, that if I feel pain in my hand at any time I will stop. It’s a little tricky sometimes – couple of times I didn’t feel the racquet that strongly in my hand. But starting the match with a forehand winner was amazing. I feel great.”
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