NEW YORK (Reuters) – Petra Kvitova has yet to return to her best level, but at least being on a tennis court is starting to feel normal to the Czech eight months after she suffered career-threatening injuries when she was stabbed by an intruder in her home.
The twice Wimbledon champion, who missed five months of action after being stabbed in her playing hand last December, scraped into the second round of the U.S. Open by beating former world number one Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 7-5 7-5 on Monday.
“Things like seeing other players, seeing coaches, being on the tennis court, practicing with other girls, that feels more normal than before, for sure,” the 13th seed told reporters.
“For me, like, warmups before the matches or matches are already normal, I have to say. But on the other hand, it’s still very special and I’m still very grateful for it.
“Yeah, few things are more normal than before, but few are still a little bit different.”
The Czech, in search of top form after a mediocre build-up to the year’s final grand slam, struggled to adapt to Jankovic’s counter-punching style but eventually wore down the 2008 runner-up to set up a meeting with France’s Alize Cornet.
“She did just a great job, mentally, because from what I heard it was not even sure that she could play tennis again,” said Cornet, a 6-4 6-4 winner over Britain’s Heather Watson.
“I’m really happy for her because she is a very nice person and there are not so many of them on the tour.”
Kvitova, who had nearly four hours of surgery on her left hand and returned to competition at this year’s French Open, won a first set that featured three breaks of serve as both players struggled to find their range in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
She rallied back from 2-0 down in the second set but dropped serve again in the seventh game. However, Kvitova regained her composure to win four consecutive games and secured the win on her first match point with a sizzling forehand winner down the line.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Frank Pingue