Just before Wimbledon, at a WTA Tour function by the Thames, Petra Kvitova met Monica Seles, with whom she has much in common for a reason both would like to forget.
The two champions have been victims of knife attacks that could have ended their careers, something they fought hard to ensure would not become the case.
Saturday’s Australian Open final could create another bond. This was where Seles won a Grand Slam in 1996 more than two years after she was stabbed by a deranged fan in Hamburg.
Petra Kvitova stormed to her first Australian Open final with a win over Danielle Collins
It is Kvitova’s first Grand Slam final since she was stabbed at her home by an intruder in 2016
Kvitova is channeling the spirit of Monica Seles (pictured in 2016), who recovered from being stabbed on court in Hamburg in 1993 to win the Australian Open title three years later
Kvitova will do the same if she can beat Naomi Osaka to win her first major since Wimbledon 2014, capping her return with one of the biggest titles of all. Not only that, whoever holds the trophy will also become the world’s No 1 player.
It would be a remarkable achievement for the 28-year-old Czech, coming two years and one month after fighting off a knife-wielding intruder in her apartment who she believed had come to read the gas meter.
‘In June I met her (Seles) for the first time. Actually, she was the one who wanted to meet me, so it was just great and a big honour,’ said Kvitova, after she had seen off American outsider Danielle Collins, 7-6, 6-0 in Thursday’s semi-final.
Her success in Melbourne is remarkable given the difficult road she faced after the stabbing
Yet to drop a set on route to the final, the No 8 seed showed all her experience on Thursday
Collins, 25, was thoroughly outplayed in the second set and she failed to win a single game
‘I know how it affected her career a lot, especially as it happened on the court. So it’s a bit different, but it was such a nice feeling to meet someone who kind of went through the same things and thoughts and everything, very nice.’
A 33-year-old drifter is awaiting trial for the attack, with the case having initially been closed and then reopened.
Kvitova, one of the most likeable among the top players on the tour, bounced back with five tour titles last year, although her record at Grand Slams has been modest during what she calls her ‘second career’.
‘It wasn’t only physically but mentally it was very tough, as well. It took me a while to believe in people around me again, and especially to the men, for sure,’ she admitted.
‘I wasn’t confident to be alone somewhere. I do remember the first time I was alone in the locker room in Prague in the club and I came to my team and said, ‘Well, it was the first time I was alone there, and it was good today that I really felt OK’.
Reflecting back on the 2016 attack, Kvitova admitted that she was not confident ‘to be alone’
But having seen Seles return from a stabbing to win a Slam, Kvitova has rallied herself to form
‘I found out lately that my doctor wasn’t really happy with my hand during the second month, because the scars were very, very tight and hard, and I couldn’t really do anything. Luckily he didn’t tell me during that period.
‘He waited when he could tell me. I think not very many people believed that I can do that again, to stand on the court and play tennis and play on this level. It was just really few of them, I think.
‘I’m very happy to have those few around me. Hopefully (I can do this) for them, for my family and for everybody who was there when I needed it.’
Osaka has again been impressive here, backing up her US Open triumph by making another final straight away. She is the first female player to do so since Jennifer Capriati in 2001.
She ended the run of Karolina Pliskova by fending off another late challenge from the rangy Czech to win her semi-final 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Pliskova remains in the unfortunate position of being the best player never to have won a Grand Slam.
The key against Collins for Kvitova was when the roof was closed due to the high temperature
She takes on Naomi Osaka in Saturday’s final as she looks to build on her US Open title win