In a sad twist of irony, the French Open lost another multiple Grand Slam tennis champion when Petra Kvitova announced she was withdrawing.
Kvitova hurt herself during, of all things, her post-match press conference. The resulting ankle injury is the reason she cited for withdrawal. Her decision comes a day after the world’s No. 2-ranked player, Naomi Osaka, withdrew. Osaka decided before the event she would skip the post-match press conferences in Paris.
Osaka had cited ongoing mental health concerns for her decision to stay away from the extensive press gatherings. After her first-round victory, she spoke to the courtside reporter. But Osaka was fined $15,000 by French Open officials for not attending the media availability.
These events all happened the same day another player sustained an injury during a press conference. It’s a dreadfully unfortunate situation for Kvitova, and indeed, it is not something of which to make light.
But the Kvitova injury wasn’t the only ironic twist at Roland-Garros that day.
French Open chief responds to Naomi Osaka withdrawal with a prepared statement
The chairman of the French Tennis Federation, Gilles Moretton, made a statement about Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal. He first read it in French, then again in English.
He left the media room without taking questions.
Let’s repeat that for the kids in the back of the room: He left the media room without taking questions. Seriously? You penalize a player for ducking the press. Then you dodge the press when addressing the issue of a player ducking the press? The tennis media present did not miss the ironic twist.
Between Osaka’s semi-voluntary departure from Paris and Petra Kvikova’s awful luck, it was already a bad day at Roland-Garros. Moretton saw the fire burning, grabbed some gasoline, and made his valuable contribution to the pyre.
Petra Kvitova’s career built on overcoming obstacles
On the Women’s Tennis Association circuit since 2006, Petra Kvitova won both of her Grand Slams at Wimbledon. She took the Venus Rosewater Dish in 2011 and 2014. Now 31, Kvitova hasn’t won on tour since 2018, when she took first place at the Qatar Open and the Madrid Open.
Those two tournament titles in 2018 may, in context, be more impressive than her pair of Wimbledon crowns. She missed most of 2017. Kvitova was the victim of a violent burglary at her apartment in Prostejov, located in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. She sustained a knife injury to her dominant left hand during the attack that required surgery.
Kvitova got help on the road back from former world No. 1 Monica Seles. A fan of one of her rivals attacked Seles during a 1993 tournament in Germany. The attacker leaned over a railing while Seles was resting during a changeover. He stabbed Seles in the upper back, and she missed nearly two years of competition. After learning about the burglary, Seles reached out to Kvitova and offered her help in her return to competition.
A Grand Slam return for Kvitova
Petra Kvitova returned to play 11 events in 2017 before resuming a full schedule in 2018. In January 2019, she reached the Australian Open final, where she met Naomi Osaka. She lost a tight three-set decision. But that she fought through her trauma and physical injury to reach that level was a win in and of itself.
Kvitova will work to get healthy for her best surface, the grass courts of Wimbledon, in late June. Whether Osaka will play in London is uncertain. At the very least, a joint statement issued by the four Grand Slam events took a much less aggressive tone than its first.
The group offered unqualified support for Osaka and pledged to work with players and other entities. The stated goal is to find an answer to balance media cooperation and players’ well-being.