Kvitova returns from stabbing to win opener
PARIS — If Petra Kvitova had been just a worthy adversary who lost a competitive match on Sunday, she still would have walked off centre court at Roland Garros a winner for her bravery and determination.
In December, while fending off a knifewielding home invader at her apartment in Prostejov, Czech Republic, six-foot-tall Kvitova grabbed the blade as it was poised at her neck, and during the ensuing struggle, she suffered severe injuries to her left hand, the one she uses to serve and to hit penetrating groundstrokes.
She needed nearly four hours of intricate surgery to repair the hand and save her career. On Sunday, Kvitova came back to the game more than a month earlier than expected, and in just one hour 14 minutes, she showed the tennis world that she would not be cowed, delivering a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory over 85th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States in the first round of the French Open.
“This match was special to me,” said Kvitova, the No. 15 seed, who had declared that just entering the French Open was a victory. “I won for the second time, if I can say.”
The opening day was not so sweet for Angelique Kerber of Germany, the No. 1 seed, who was ousted by unseeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, 6-2, 6-2. Kerber became the first top seed to lose in the first round at Roland Garros in the Open era, which began in 1968. Serena Williams lost in the second round as a No. 1 seed in 2014, as did Justine Henin of Belgium in 2004.
Clay is Kerber’s worst surface, but this season has been particularly disappointing. She went 5-4, including the Fed Cup, and failed to get past the third round in any of the tournaments.
“I know in the last years I always had up and downs,” Kerber, 29, said, “and right now, of course, I’m actually in the down feeling.”
On an uncharacteristically warm day, No. 11 Venus Williams extended her Open era record by playing in her 20th tournament at Roland Garros. She had a surprisingly difficult time with China’s Qiang Wang in their firstround encounter on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, but Williams held on to win, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Williams, 36, arrived without her sister Serena, who is pregnant. Venus Williams said it would be difficult for Serena to watch the tournament because, as a three-time French Open winner, she knows she could have done well here.
“But she’s just excited about everything coming up in her life off the court and excited about maternity,” Venus Williams said.
Williams also took note of Kvitova’s emotional accomplishment earlier in the day.
“You don’t imagine in life that you are going to go through that when you wake up,” Williams said. “I’m very happy she is having a winning tournament.”
Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic hits a forehand in her first-round match against American Julia Boserup at the French Open on Sunday. Kvitova won the match, 6-3, 6-2.