Tennis

Petra Kvitova Credits Monica Seles With Helping Her Heal From Brutal Attack

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova remains a threat on the tennis court. She won’t get a chance to go for three this year due to the pandemic. But before sports came to a sudden halt, she fully re-emerged as a gatekeeper to the highest tier of tennis.

“Re-emerged” is key here. She disappeared from tennis for much of 2017. The U.S. Open quarterfinalist was forced to recover from a terrible injury, inflicted in a mysterious horror story. Her own perseverance and the support of retired tennis great Monica Seles helped her return to competition.

A horrible incident hurts Petra Kvitova’s life and career

Kvitova came to international attention in 2009. She won her first international title at the Hobart International. By 2011, she notched her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2011, and again in 2014. In between, she was a constant in the final stages of nearly every tournament she entered.

That all horrifically derailed suddenly in December 2016. As she entered her apartment, a knife-wielding home invader intervened. In the ensuing struggle, Kvitova had to defend herself with her bare hands. She took injuries to her left hand, a particularly awful turn of events for a professional tennis player. The unidentified assailant fled the scene.

How Kvitova recovered from the brutal attack

Petra Kvitova celebrates a win in 2020
Petra Kvitova celebrates a win in 2020 | Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Healing required 6-8 weeks in a cast and months of rehab work. There was no guarantee of a full recovery. Kvitova underwent multiple surgeries in the process and regained most of her mobility.

She came through the other side ahead of schedule, in part due to luck from healing quickly. But also because of her dedication to an intensive, often painful rehabilitation plan. By mid-2017, she beat the odds and felt ready to return to professional competition.

Monica Seles’ commitment to helping Kvitova return to tennis

Kvitova wasn’t the first tennis star to suffer a shocking, seemingly random attack. Monica Seles, retired since 2008, experienced a similarly awful assault. A mentally unwell fan of one of Seles’ rivals stabbed Seles in the shoulder with a boning knife in 1993.

For Seles, the recovery was just a few weeks. But the mental strain of the assault weighed on her, leading to two full years of missed events during the prime of her career. She came out on the other side in 1995 in top form, but it took time. However, the eight-time Grand Slam title winner added just one more in the second half of her career after the assault.

Determined to pay forward the lessons she learned, Seles reached out to Kvitova after hearing the younger star suffered her own attack. Kvitova found comfort in relating to someone who experienced a similar incident. She credits Seles’ advice with helping her return to top of the competition so soon after the incident.

Where Kvitova is today

Seles continued competing professionally in international tournaments from 1995 to 2003, then officially retired in 2008. A combination of lingering effects from the injury, and mental distress over the attack, kept her from re-capturing her form. Despite this decline, fans still regard her as one of the best tennis players of all time.

Kvitova, through a combination of a remarkable physical recovery, and Seles’ hard-earned perspective, managed to restore much of her previous prowess on the court. Less than a year after the attack, she made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. She made it all the way to the grand finals of the 2019 Australian Open, falling to the formidable Naomi Osaka. 2020 is another short pause for Kvitova’s elite tennis career, but all signs point to her continuing this level of dominance when regular play resumes.