MELBOURNE: A tearful Petra Kvitova said she felt her comeback from a terrifying knife attack was finally complete Tuesday after powering into the Australian Open semi-finals.
The Czech eighth seed downed local hope Ashleigh Barty 6-1, 6-4 to extend a 10-match winning streak that has made her this year’s form player on the women’s tour.
The 28-year-old, who will meet unseeded American Danielle Collins in the final four, said she feared her career was over after she was attacked in her home in the Czech Republic in late 2016.
“Thank you guys, I didn’t really imagine being back in this great stadium again to play with the best. It’s great,” said Kvitova, who required extensive surgery after the burglar slashed her racquet hand, leaving her with permanent nerve damage.
Kvitova won two Wimbledon titles before the attack but the left-hander had not excelled at Grand Slams since returning from the injury.
She said her second, post-injury career was now on track after making the final four in Melbourne.
“I’m calling it as my second career. So it’s the first semi-final of the second career,” she said. “It took me while, for sure but I’ve never really played so well on the Grand Slams.
“So I’m happy this time. It’s different. I’m really enjoying it.”
She said her experience had put tennis into perspective, allowing her to enjoy playing more.
“I’m seeing life a little bit differently compared to before. I know it’s just sport, it’s just tennis,” she said.
“(Though) you always want to do your best, of course.”
– Crowd silencer –
The lanky Czech has reached the final four in Melbourne without dropping a set.
She had already defeated Barty — the first Australian to make the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in a decade — earlier this month in Sydney and was not intimidated by her opponent’s hometown support.
Kvitova hushed the crowd when she went up a break in the second game then held off Barty to go up 3-0.
Barty had no answer to the power of Kvitova’s forehand return as the Czech repeatedly stepped in and cracked cross-court winners.
It took the Australian 17 minutes to get on the board, desperately holding serve to make it 3-1 as she searched for a way into the match. Kvitova gave her no openings, breaking again then serving it out 6-1 after 27 minutes.
Barty hit only two winners to 12 in the first set but did not panic, shrugging her shoulders nonchalantly at her players’ box after conceding the set.
She held serve with an ace, energising the crowd, but Kvitova responded with two of her own to fend off Barty’s first break point of the match.
A frustrated Barty tried a drop shot followed by a lob against Kvitova’s serve but nothing worked and Kvitova took a decisive break in the ninth game. —AFP