Petra Kvitova could return to tennis within six months following a knife attack that could have been career-ending and which the Czech admitted had her fearing for her life.
Radek Kebrle, the surgeon who operated on the world No11, said on Wednesday afternoon that the operation to repair tendons and nerves in her left hand – her main playing hand – went “very well, with no complications”. A spokesman for the player earlier said: “The end of her career did not even cross her mind.”
Kebrle added: “Petra will be on bed rest for 14 days, she will begin slow rehabilitation at around 6-8 weeks post operation. If that rehabilitation process goes well, Petra should be able to grip a racket for the first time [but not play tennis] at three months.
“The best case scenario is that Petra will be able to return to the tennis court after six months. It is too soon to specify when precisely she can return to competition, but Petra is ready to do everything she can to get back competing at the highest level. Petra is happy with how the operation went and is in good spirits.”
Kvitova’s PR manager, Katie Spellman, earlier tweeted: “Petra has undergone surgery for three hours and 45 minutes. Considering the extent of the damage, the surgery went very well. Doctors repaired damage to tendons in all five digits of the left hand, as well as two nerves. Petra will wear a cast on her hand for six to eight weeks and will be unable to bear weight for three months.”
Separately, a spokesman for the Czech Federation Cup team told local television that Kvitova was focused on resuming training and playing, however long her recovery might take. Karel Tejkal, her spokesman, added: “She kept saying: ‘Let them put me together fast, no matter if it takes months or years.’ She is looking forward to training again.”
It seems inconceivable that Kvitova could return to the Tour before Wimbledon, the major where she made her breakthrough in 2011, and where she won again in 2014. Given the severity of the injuries, the length of the operation and the fact that she is left-handed, it seems certain she will face a long period of rehabilitation before beginning even light practice.
“The start of 2017 won’t be the same without her unique power and competitive spirit,” the WTA said, reflecting the universal shock that greeted the news of the assault on one of the game’s most popular players.
It emerged the attacker gained entry to her building posing as a worker reading utility meters and was unaware who the occupant was until he was inside the front door of her flat. He forced her into her bathroom holding a knife to her throat and in the ensuing struggle, slashed deep knife wounds to the four fingers and thumb on her left hand. He fled and she called the police before being taken to hospital.
The player remained upbeat in a posting on Facebook on Tuesday. “Today I was attacked in my apartment by an individual with a knife. In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand. I am shaken, but fortunate to be alive. The injury is severe and I will need to see specialists, but if you know anything about me I am strong and I will fight this. Thank you all again for your love and support and now I would appreciate some privacy while I focus on my recovery.”
Kvitova was already in doubt for the Australian Open in January because of a foot injury that flared towards the end of one of her toughest seasons. She began the year ranked No6 in the world and tumbled out of the top 10 for the first time since 2013. She changed coaches twice and separated from her long-time fiancé, the Czech ice hockey player Radek Meidl.
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