LONDON — The surgeon who repaired Petra Kvitova’s left hand was in the Centre Court stands to watch her win in Wimbledon’s first round on Monday.
"It was very nice that he sat in the box for my match. It was a special one," Kvitova said. "I’m really glad that he took the invitation. He came with his wife to support me here."
Kvitova was a bit overwhelmed by the whole scene as she returned to the site of her two Grand Slam titles, a little more than six months after being cut by a knife-wielding intruder at her home in the Czech Republic. Still unable to clench her hand for celebratory fist pumps or grip her racket fully, Kvitova came back to the All England Club and beat Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-4.
All five fingers on the lefty’s racket-swinging hand were injured in the late December attack. At the time, Kvitova was told there was a possibility she might not play tennis again.
Scars on that hand serve as a reminder of what happened, and she thinks the cream that she often rubs on her hands during changeovers — something she’s long done, even before the stabbing — might help her improve her grip strength.
She first returned to practice a little before the French Open, then began her competitive comeback in Paris in late May. A tournament title came next, on grass courts at Birmingham, England, in June.
Those were both important milestones, to be sure.
It was still a thrill to play once again at Wimbledon, where she won the championship in 2011 and 2014.
"It was beautiful to be back on the court, playing my game, on the beautiful Centre Court, of course," the 11th-seeded Kvitova said. "I couldn’t wish (for) more."
After winning Birmingham, she pulled out of a tuneup tournament at Eastbourne, citing an abdominal injury she thinks was a result of having the unwanted time off to begin the season.
She acknowledged dealing with some jitters at the outset against Larsson, a Swede who is ranked 53rd. That might have led to three early double-faults.
But Kvitova quickly found her game and was on her way. And she noticed that the crowd, clearly familiar with what she went through not that long ago, cheered even more loudly than usual for her.
She’s popular among British bookmakers, too: Some have made her the favourite to take home the trophy in two weeks’ time.