Kvi­tova tak­ing it one game at a time

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — Two-time cham­pion Pe­tra Kvi­tova de­nies she is the fa­vorite to win Wim­ble­don, in­sist­ing she re­mains an “un­der­ground” fig­ure as she re­turns from the knife at­tack that nearly ended her ca­reer.

The Czech star is play­ing just her third tour­na­ment on the come­back trail af­ter the ter­ri­fy­ing De­cem­ber or­deal at the hands of a knife-wield­ing home in­vader.

She sus­tained se­vere in­juries to her play­ing left hand while fight­ing off the at­tacker.

On Mon­day, in what was just her eighth match back since re­turn­ing to tennis in May, the world No 12 beat Swe­den’s 53-ranked Jo­hanna Lars­son 6-3, 6-4 on Cen­tre Court in an emo­tional first-round re­turn to Wim­ble­don, scene of her great­est tri­umphs.

Kvi­tova has al­ready been in­stalled as the book­maker’s fa­vorite to win the crown, ahead of com­pa­triot Karolina Pliskova, Bri­tish hope Jo­hanna Konta, Spain’s Gar­bine Mugu­ruza and French Open cham­pion Je­lena Ostapenko.

But Kvi­tova main­tained she was an “un­der­ground” out­sider with six more stops to go be­fore reach­ing the dream des­ti­na­tion — start­ing with Madi­son Bren­gle of the United States in round two.

“My ex­pec­ta­tion is to stand up on Wed­nes­day in the match and just play what I can,” said the 27-year-old.

“I don’t see my­self re­ally too ahead. I’m just here to play ev­ery sin­gle match that I can. I’m not re­ally think­ing that I’m the fa­vorite. I’m still un­der­ground.”

‘It’s not easy’

Kvi­tova re­frained from speak­ing di­rectly about the home in­va­sion as the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the Czech Repub­lic is still on­go­ing.

“Ev­ery trau­matic sit­u­a­tion is al­ways tough. I feel like for women it’s more dif­fi­cult be­cause we are more sen­si­tive and more emo­tional,” she said.

“It’s not easy. You still want to fo­cus on each point you are play­ing, but at the same time you get up­set with some­thing else. It’s just dif­fi­cult to switch to tennis again.”

The scars from the at­tack are caus­ing Kvi­tova prob­lems. She used a cream through­out her open­ing match to help grip her racket.

“With the scars on my hand, it’s helping me to keep the racket stronger than be­fore.”

Kvi­tova’s sur­geon sat in her box to watch Mon­day’s match.

“It’s spe­cial; I’m re­ally glad that he took the invitation. He came with his wife to sup­port me,” she said.

Feel­ing the en­ergy

The 2011 and 2014 cham­pion re­ceived a heart­felt wel­come from the Cen­tre Court crowd, but they did not wit­ness quite so many of Kvi­tova’s sig­na­ture fist pumps.

“I couldn’t still do it with my left, but that’s OK. I’m us­ing it some­times. It’s weird. But I can get used to this,” she said.

“I felt the en­ergy from the crowd and it was amaz­ing to be back here at Wim­ble­don and play­ing on the beau­ti­ful Cen­tre Court. It’s the fa­vorite court of my ca­reer.

I don’t see my­self re­ally too ahead. I’m just here to play ev­ery sin­gle match that I can. I’m not re­ally think­ing that I’m the fa­vorite.” Pe­tra Kvi­tova

“It was my mo­ti­va­tion to come back and play in Wim­ble­don. I’m very happy that the dream came true.”

Kvi­tova was knocked out in the sec­ond round of the French Open in May in her come­back tour­na­ment but went on to win the Ae­gon Clas­sic in Birm­ing­ham, one of the Wim­ble­don warm-up events, boost­ing her cre­den­tials as a po­ten­tial ti­tle win­ner at the All Eng­land Club.

She was due to play at East­bourne last week but pulled out with an ab­dom­i­nal in­jury.

The Czech No 2 said she felt no pain dur­ing Mon­day’s opener, but added she was lack­ing match sharp­ness in her serv­ing and ground strokes.

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