Petra Kvitova still does not have full sensation in her racquet hand. The former world number two and two-time Wimbledon champion lives with a constant reminder of the knife attack in December 2016 that left her hand mutilated and her future as a top player uncertain.
Return to the Top
Any lingering doubts about Kvitova’s continued relevance at grand slams have been banished by her dominant win over Danielle Collins of the United States in the semi-finals. Kvitova’s straight sets victory was not entirely unexpected – she was the higher ranked and more experienced player – but the confirmation of her physical and mental toughness was still a joy to behold.
Collins made the first set a tight tussle, at times even looking stronger in the intense Melbourne heat. Collins managed to break Kvitova mid-way through the set, but could not keep her lead. The world number 6 held her nerve and rallied to restore parity eventually triumphing in a contentious tiebreak.
Coping with the Heat
The roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed during the first set as a result of the heat which was in excess of 40 degrees Celsius, or more that 105 degrees Fahrenheit. When the decision was made to close the roof, many fans in the arena cheered. Kvitova too seemed pleased. Collins, a Florida native who played collegiate tennis at the University of Virginia is used to high temperatures and humid conditions, may have been the only person in the arena displeased by the decision. In her post-match interview with Jim Courier, when asked about the roof closure and the fans’ reaction, Kvitova answered, “I think I was happier than the fans that the roof was closed.”
The second set, played in its entirety under the closed roof, quickly became one-way traffic as Kvitova took control from the baseline, found her range on return, and held serve with relative ease.
Her trademark swinging lefty serve out wide did consistent damage to Collins throughout the match either proving either unreturnable or pulling Collins so far out of position that Kvitova had an easy time putting away volleys and striking the ball into the wide-open court.
Kvitova’s best previous result at the Australian Open was a run to the semifinals in 2012. Even without her severe injury and comeback, her run would be impressive. The Australian Open has been by far her least successful grand slam event so to have her first post-injury success here is even more impressive.
Whether she wins the title or not, Kvitova’s will to compete is astonishing. Asked by Courier what it meant to her to be playing in the final, she said simple that it, “means everything.”