Kvitova eyeing title to complete comeback

Petra Kvitova is delighted to be back in a grand slam final.
Petra Kvitova is delighted to be back in a grand slam final.

Petra Kvitova was given little chance of playing tennis again following a horrific knife attack in 2016.

Now she's into the Australian Open final and poised to add to her two majors and claim the world No.1 ranking.

Not even Kvitova herself could have imagined such a stunning comeback 25 months ago.

The Czech star's career derailed when she let a man posing as a tradesman into her apartment in Prostejov. Demanding cash, he attacked her at knifepoint but Kvitova fought back, with the blade almost severing her index finger on her dominant left hand.

It took almost four hours of surgery to insert a pin and repair tendon damage in her other fingers, as well as damage to two nerves.

She was told she had a 10 per cent chance of playing elite tennis again.

But the 28-year-old put as much effort into recovering as she had into her tennis training and embraced the mindset that made her famously tough to beat in three sets.

It was three months before Kvitova could pick up a racquet again and six before she returned to the main stage, at the 2017 French Open.

She said she couldn't even be alone in a changeroom, although her fear has eased with the arrest of her attacker last year.

Kvitova said making a third major final was "sweeter" after her ordeal.

"I'm still not really believing that I'm in the final," she said.

"It's kind of weird as well, that I didn't know even if I was going play tennis again. It wasn't only physically but mentally was very tough."

Kvitova said she was inspired by former world No.1 Monica Seles, who was attacked with a knife by a crazed Steffi Graf fan.

Seles took over two years to return to competition and coincidentally won the last of her nine grand slams at the 1996 Australian Open.

The pair met in June with Kvitova feeling an immediate bond.

"I know it affected her career a lot, especially it happened on the court so it's a bit different, but it was such a nice feeling to meet someone who kind of went through same things and thoughts and everything," Kvitova said.

"She has been through the worst and when I returned to tennis, she was an inspiration for me."

Kvitova has since won seven titles, including the 26th of her career in Sydney earlier this month, and is now into first major final since claiming her second Wimbledon title in 2014.

But given her ordeal, it's little wonder the quietly-spoken Czech was so emotional in the immediate aftermath of her semi-final victory over American Danielle Collins on Thursday.

"Are you going to make me cry again?" Kvitova said.

"It means everything. That's why I worked very hard to be in the finals of the tournament, the final of the major."

Australian Associated Press