Brave Petra Kvitova admitted Thursday it had been "a long journey" to make the Australian Open final after a knife-wielding burglar slashed her racquet hand in an attack that left her traumatised and scared to be alone. The 28-year-old feared she may never play tennis again after the 33-year-old man broke into her apartment in the eastern Czech town of Prostejov just weeks before the opening Grand Slam of 2017. She suffered career-threatening injuries to her left hand as she fought him off. Despite grim forecasts by doctors, who even warned she might lose her fingers, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion never gave up believing and miraculously returned to the sport in time for the 2017 French Open.
But she was still struggling mentally, admitting it took time to regain her confidence. "It wasn't only physically but mentally very tough," she said. "It took me really a while to believe (in the) people around me again, and especially the men, for sure. So, I wasn't pretty confident to be alone somewhere."
Getting her hand back into shape was also a gruelling challenge, involving extensive surgery and months of treatment. She still has nerve damage in her fingers and struggles to properly clench her fist.
"Yeah, it was a lot of work with the hand. It was lot of recovery, treatment," she said. "I think that kind of the sports life helped me a lot with that. I just set up the mind that I really wanted to come back, and I just did everything. So. I was practising with the hand, like, two, three times per day, which I don't know if a normal person will do that, but of course I needed the hand to be back on court. Not only on the court but to be able to kind of live a normal life. Those three months were very, very tough."
Prosecutors in October said the man who attacked her was facing up to 12 years in prison. He didn't know whose flat he was entering after pretending to be a technician checking boilers, according to police.
Kvitova, who slumped as low as 29th in the world in the aftermath, displayed her steely determination by winning a title in Birmingham in 2017 as she bounced back in the sport she loves. She followed it up with a tour-leading five WTA tournament wins last year to signal she was well and truly back, enjoying a nomination for player of the year.
Many didn't believe she could do it, but a close-knit group around her always had faith and she paid tribute to them after beating American Danielle Collins 7-6 (7/2), 6-0 to make Saturday's final at Melbourne Park against Japan's Naomi Osaka.
"To be honest, I think not very many people believed that I could do that again, to stand on the court and play tennis and kind of play on this level," she said.
"It was just really a few of them, I think. I'm very happy to have those few around me, which is the best. And definitely it feels great. Hopefully for them (too), as well as for my family and for everybody who was there when I needed it. It's been a long journey," she added.