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Petra Kvitova to make return at French Open after knife attack

By The Sports Xchange
Petra Kvitova to make return at French Open after knife attack
Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic reacts after taking the first set from Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in the first set of their third-round match at the US Open Tennis Championships. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova announced Friday that she will play in the French Open just six months after being viciously attacked by a knife-wielding man in her home.

Kvitova said she isn't fully recovered but is ready to return to competitive tennis.

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"I actually already won my biggest fight," Kvitova said at a press conference on Friday, the same day the tournament draw was revealed. "I'm happy that I like challenges. That was one of the biggest, of course. So I stayed in life and I have all my fingers. I can play tennis and I can be here and be in the draw.

"... It felt really weird I couldn't compete. I did miss definitely on the court, I did miss the fight. And now I can just enjoy everything. ... I see different kind of things than before. I'm happy that I'm here."

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The French Open begins Sunday in Paris. Kvitova, who is seeded 15th, faces American Julia Boserup in her first-round match.

The tournament has a wide-open feel with American Serena Williams sitting out the rest of the season due to her pregnancy. Top-seeded Angelique Kerber has battled consistency issues and third-seeded Romanian Simona Halep is hampered with an ankle injury.

Defending champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain is the fourth seed. Muguruza faces 2010 French Open winner Francesca Schiavone of Italy in her first-round match.

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"I'm obviously excited to be back," Muguruza said at the draw ceremony. "It's an emotional place for me. Not only because I won last year. It is a special grand slam because I grew up playing on clay courts. So it means a lot to be back and to be in this privileged situation."

Kristina Pliskova of the Czech Republic is seeded second and Ukrainian Elina Svitolina is fifth.

Two-time French Open champion Maria Sharapova of Russia was denied a wild-card entry following her 15-month ban for using a performance-enhancing substance.

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Meanwhile, stepping on the court figures to be an emotional moment for Kvitova.

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The Dec. 20 incident at her home in the Czech Republic caused major injuries to her racket-holding left hand as she fought off the intruder. She underwent nearly four hours of surgery on her left hand and forearm.

The attacker hasn't been caught, which only added to the agony and anxiety as Kvitova attempted to recover.

"I didn't sleep well the days after, but I wasn't really staying alone," Kvitova said. "From the beginning I was really feeling really weird when I went in the city or somewhere. I was always staring toward the guys and looking if there are no strangers there. But with the time, it's better."

On the tennis side, Kvitova stepped up her workouts about 3 1/2 weeks ago. She had to work her on tennis strokes to see how the hand responded and she also had to improve her conditioning after being away from the sport.

She said there is no pain in her left hand -- which helped her make the last-minute decision to play in the French Open.

"I knew this day would come," Kvitova said. "I'm really happy that I am here. The dream comes true. It was a difficult time for me, of course. It wasn't easy, but I'm happy that I worked through this.

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"I know that my hand is not perfectly ready. It's still not 100 percent ready, so we will see how everything goes, but I'm happy that I am able to play again."

This will be Kvitova's ninth appearance in the French Open. Her best run is when she reached the semifinals in 2012 before losing to eventual champion Sharapova.

Outsiders won't have lofty expectations for Kvitova in her return. But she is just pleased to be back on the tennis court.

"I am very happy I have my second chance to play tennis," Kvitova said. "I'm really looking forward to my match. When I saw (tennis) on the TV, I didn't really feel great.

"I felt like the tennis was taken away from me and it wasn't my decision. Suddenly I couldn't do what I love."

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