Petra Kvitova, after 2016 surge, faces months of recovery from shock stabbing

Petra Kvitova will be out of tennis for at least six months as she recovers from a knife attack

There is no denying that 2016 has been a year of mixed fortunes for the ever-popular two-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.

But no-one would have predicted how dramatically her season would end—with severe injuries to her left hand after defending herself against a knife-wielding intruder at her Czech home.

The year began slowly for Kvitova after an illness-hit 2015 during which she was diagnosed with glandular fever. By the time she arrived in Indian Wells this March, she had won only two matches in five tournaments as she continued to battle illness. Gradually, though, she began to pick up some wins, and announced her return to form with a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

Come the Asian swing, she began to look more like the former world No2 that she is, won her first title of the season in Wuhan—beating No1 Angelique Kerber and then No5 Simona Halep in the process. And that was not all. She beat No4 Garbine Mugurza on her way to the quarters in Beijing, was then runner-up in Luxembourg, and finished the WTA season with victory in Zhuhai.

It was all going so well—16 wins from her last 18 matches—and the Czech Republic then won the Fed Cup for the fifth time in six years, but here were signs that all was not well for Kvitova.

After losing the opening rubber to Caroline Garcia, the Czech star did not play again due to a foot injury.

A fortnight later, she posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a support brace on her foot, and confirmed that she had a stress fracture. Only this week, she updated her fans with the news that she would not be ready to play in her first scheduled tournament of 2017, the Hopman Cup. However, numerous photos and messages from Kvitova showed that she was continuing her fitness regime.

Even on the coaching front, there was optimistic news after she split with long-time coach, David Kotyza, at the start of the year: She would work with Jiri Vanek for the 2017 season.

But her 2017 hopes were blown out of the water yesterday.

The news came from Kvitova on Facebook: “As you may have already heard, today I was attacked in my apartment by an individual with a knife. In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand. I am shaken, but fortunate to be alive. The injury is severe and I will need to see specialists, but if you know anything about me I am strong and I will fight this. Thank you all again for your love and support and now I would appreciate some privacy while I focus on my recovery.”

She underwent immediate surgery, after which her agent Katie Spellman revealed on Twitter that Kvitova was looking at three months of recovery from the complex surgery to her dominant playing hand.

“Petra has undergone surgery for 3hrs 45mins. Considering the extent of the damage, the surgery went very well. Doctors repaired tendons in all five digits of the left hand as well as two nerves. Petra will wear a cast on her hand for 6-8 weeks and will be unable to bear weight for three months. We hope to have more information for you tomorrow.”

Now, in a press conference, surgeon Radek Kebrle, has elaborated. Spellman reported: “Surgeon Kebrle said that the operation on Petra’s left hand went very well with no complications. Petra will be on bed rest for 14 days, and she will begin slow rehabilitation at around six to eight weeks post operation.

“If the rehab process goes well, Petra should be able to grip a racket for the first time (but not play tennis) at three months.

“The best-case scenario is that Petra will be able to return to the tennis court after six months. It is too soon to specify when precisely she can return to competition, but Petra is ready to do everything she can to get back competing at the highest level.

“Petra is happy with how the operation sent and is in good spirits.”

A report on Czech news site aktualne.cz added a little more detail. Kebrle said: “First, it is necessary to heal the wound, then after removing the stitches begins some light hand mobilization. The patient will have a splint for six to eight weeks. Then she will start to increase the range of motion. She will start working on strength in a matter of months.”

He concluded: “Some things are on our side. She is a young, active athlete and the injury was clean… Still, they were massive injuries.”

So the future for one of the most liked women on the tennis tour—and only last week she picked up the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award from her peers for the fourth consecutive year and her fifth time in the last six—is uncertain. Six months will take her past three of 2017’s Majors, the Australia Open, the French and Wimbledon.

But whatever the prognosis, one thing is for sure: Her colleagues on the tour will be right behind her. Twitter, over the last 24 hours, has proved that:

Kerber: “You’re a fighter with a big heart. You will come back even stronger!”

Caroline Wozniacki: “Just heard what happened to Petra! All my thoughts are with her today. One of the nicest people I know!”

Aga Radwanska: “My thoughts are with Petra: Terrible news.”

Fernando Verdasco: “All my support to you… I’m so sorry to hear what happened. I wish you the best recovery. All the tennis world is with you.”

Ana Ivanovic: “My thoughts and prayers are with Petra! She’s a great fighter and I am positive she will be ok!”

Victoria Azarenka: “My prayers and best wishes to Petra: Stay strong.”

Martina Navratilova: “Just finding out about the awful stabbing and injury to her hand: pulling for you Petra.”

Madison Keys: “So upset hearing the news about Petra. Hands down one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

Billie Jean King: “Thinking of Petra and sending wishes for a safe and fast recovery.”

Rafael Nadal: “Terrible news. Wishing a speedy recovery for Petra. Keep smiling as always!”

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