Wimbledon favourite Petra Kvitová said she has ‘already won the biggest fight’ after returning from a career-threatening attack.
Six months ago, the 27-year-old Czech did not know if she would be able to play tennis again after an intruder attacked her with a knife.
But sitting on her sofa, hand in splint, watching other women excel on the tour, she was reminded how much she wanted to be out there again and realise her dream of being back at Wimbledon.
She said: “I feel a bit fearless, I think, because of what happened. I find out what’s important and what is not.
“Sometimes I’m thinking on the court that I already won the biggest fight.”
World number 12 Kvitová is the bookies’ favourite coming into The Championships, after her confident win at the Aegon Classic Birmingham.
But, the 2011 and 2014 champion is playing down her chances to lift the trophy after not playing for five months.
“It’s very open. So who knows who’s going to win?,” she said
And she’s right – the WTA tour has been so dominated by Serena Williams in the past few years that her absence makes the competition anybody’s to win, or lose.
Victória Azárenka, who is also making a return to the tour after the birth of her baby boy, commented on Kvitová’s braveness.
She said: “I think she’s such a warrior to be able to just act normal.
“The way she recovered from it, it’s really inspiring.”
Former world number one Azárenka said the birth of her son Leo gave her a new focus.
She said: “Being in an individual sport, you have to be a little bit more selfish.
“It’s a little bit of a mind trick that I have to do to feel okay with taking some time for myself, not feel guilty that I don’t spend my every free second with my son, which is sometimes tough.”
Yet, while she loves waking up with him in the middle of the night, she will be sleeping soundly over the next two weeks in an attempt to make her mark in a tour dominated by new faces.
One such face is French Open champion Jeļena Ostapenko, who is also hoping to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish in two weeks’ time.
The 20-year-old is fresh from her win in Paris which catapulted her into the tennis spotlight as well as, unexpectedly, the cockpit, where she sat on her victory flight back to Latvia.
She said: “When I was onboard, the crew came and asked me if you want to fly in the cockpit.
“The view is much, much better.”
It’s an experience she hopes to repeat if she can build upon her early success in Paris and as the former junior Wimbledon winner in 2014 over the next two weeks.
However, despite strong form in Paris, Ostapenko didn’t make it past the first round at Wimbledon last year and was beaten by Johanna Konta on grass in Eastbourne just last week.
To succeed, her soaring forehand will be her main weapon – which averaged faster than Andy Murray’s at the French Open.
“If I play aggressive and I have my day, I think everything can happen,” she said.
In such an open field, another name to watch is world number one Angelique Kerber, who will make her Centre Court debut on Tuesday in Serena Williams’ absence.
The 29-year-old German has struggled so far in 2017, only getting past the quarterfinals at the WTA Abierto GNP Seguros and the Dubai Tennis Championships.
In May, she broke records for the wrong reasons where she was the first WTA number one player to lose in the first round of Roland Garros.
She said: “I’m starting from zero here. My mind is just day by day here, like last year. I will try to play good tennis again.”
While it’s not sure who will be holding the famous dish in two weeks – one thing is for certain – there will be plenty of shocks along the way.
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