An emotional Petra Kvitova cried “happy tears” after reaching the semi-finals of a grand slam for the first time since the horrific stabbing that almost ended her career.
It is only two years since the Czech was watching the Australian Open on TV wondering whether she would ever play to the same level again after the tendons and nerves of the fingers in her playing hand were damaged in the attack by an intruder at her home.
After beating home hope Ashleigh Barty 6-1, 6-4, Kvitova was asked by Jim Courier in an on-court interview whether she had thought she would be back on such a stage.
With tears in her eyes and her voice wavering, Kvitova said: “I didn’t really imagine to be back in this great stadium and playing with the best. It’s great.”
“I thought that question will come,” she added in her press conference later. “It was kind of a mix of emotions of everything I’ve been through. Sometimes I’m not really recognising anything from the past. But, when Jim asked that, it wasn’t really easy for me to see myself being in a semi-final after everything. I always wanted to come back and play on the highest level I can, compete with the best, play the grand slams, actually be very deep in the grand slam, which is happening. It just took me a bit to tears, but it was happy tears, for sure.”
Kvitova has been in ruthless form, not losing more than five games in any of her matches so far to make the last four at a slam for the first time since winning her second Wimbledon title in 2014.
She and Barty, the first Australian woman to make it this far in Melbourne for a decade, had contested a close final in Sydney a week and a half ago, which Kvitova won, but the Czech was far too good this time.
Barty recovered from a one-sided opening set to push her rival in the second, but admitted afterwards that she had been outplayed. “Petra was outstanding, she really was,” said the 22-year-old. “I have to give all credit to her. Petra is an amazing human being. We all know what Petra can do. She’s a grand slam champion. But, most importantly, I think from all of the girls in the locker room, it’s amazing just to see her back out here. It wasn’t the same when she wasn’t here.”
Kvitova might yet end the tournament as both the Australian Open champion and world No 1. Her victory ensured Simona Halep cannot hang on to top spot but Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova, all of whom play today, are also in contention.
Kvitova was close to reaching No 1 here seven years ago, but she said: “I don’t really care, to be honest. In the next match, playing Danielle in the semi-final, that’s what matters right now.”
Danielle is unseeded American Danielle Collins, who continued her remarkable run on her debut at the tournament by seeing off Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The 25-year-old was ranked outside the top 100 a year ago and arrived in Melbourne having never won a match in the main draw of a slam.