Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, Petra Kvitova was back competing on a tennis court Sunday, winning her first-round match at the French Open.
Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, had very little trouble in her return, beating 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States 6-3, 6-2 in 74 minutes.
“I think it doesn’t really matter how I played, but I won,” Kvitova said. “I won already, before.”
Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky in the main stadium at Roland Garros was a victory for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand - the one she holds her racket with - after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December.
She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.
“It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m really glad that we made this decision that I’m going to play here,” Kvitova told the crowd during an on-court interview.
Then, addressing her guest box, which included her parents and brother, she said: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”
In one other early result of significance on Day 1, 2015 US Open runner-up Roberta Vinci exited the French Open in the first round for the fourth year in a row. The 31st-seeded Vinci, most famous for ending Serena Williams’ hopes of a calendar year Grand Slam by beating her in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows in 2015, lost to Rio Olympics gold medalist Monica Puig 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
On Sunday, several members of Kvitova’s entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled on the shirts with a red heart instead of the “o’’, is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.
There was quite a bit of that against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.
Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner; she compiled the first 10 winners of the match and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category.
She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points - the only ones she had to deal with in the match - while ahead 3-1.
When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.