PARIS — Returning to Roland Garros one year after her emotional comeback to the sport, Petra Kvitova is rediscovering her best tennis, and suddenly close to closure.
Seventeen months after she was wounded by a knife-wielding home invader, the police in the Czech Republic announced this week that a suspect had been taken into custody, but did not name him.
Kvitova sustained deep cuts into her dominant left hand in a violent fracas in her apartment in Prostejov in December 2016. She needed hours of surgery and months of rehabilitation before returning to the sport at the 2017 French Open.
“It was a little bit of a wait for me,” Kvitova said at a news conference at Roland Garros on Friday. “When that happened I wasn’t really wishing anything more than just they catch him.”
As the case showed little progress, Kvitova worked to preoccupy herself with her healing process.
“I was really trying hard to be back, focusing on the rehab,” she said. “Then I a little bit forget, and I have been telling myself that I can’t really do anything, you know? It’s the police’s, and they do what they have to do. And in the end, hopefully, they did great job.”
Kvitova said it was “great news for me to hear” that a suspect had been captured, but said a fuller sense of closure and security would come with a conviction.
“It’s great that they have him in custody,” she said. “But probably the most, the happiest I will be when the story will end, when everything will be done and finished.”
Kvitova has spoken openly about the psychological scars the attack also caused, and said she was not yet sure if her flashbacks, fear of crowds and other struggles would subside with the news.
“Of course I will always feel a little bit weird when I am somewhere in public, probably, alone, but on the other hand this should be a little bit better,” Kvitova said. “But I don’t really feel that, the relief, because it’s not the end.”
The news of a breakthrough in the case came six months after the Czech police announced they were stopping their investigation because of a lack of leads. The Czech newspaper Dnes reported that the case was reinvigorated by a recent anonymous tip, and that Kvitova would still need to officially identify the man.
The unexpected thaw in the cold case caught Kvitova off-guard as she tried to hone her focus onto the French Open.
“Well, probably the timing isn’t the best — but it’s great news, right?” Kvitova said. “So I should be happy. I am happy.”
Though Kvitova’s blistering brand of tennis is at its most powerful on faster surfaces, she has had success on the slow clay this year. She won a small WTA tournament in Prague — her first tour-level title in her home country — and followed it with a win the next week in Madrid, one of the biggest tournaments on tour. That title was her fourth of the year, the most of tour. No other player has even made four finals.
That sort of dominance, coming after an attack that many feared could be career-ending, still leaves Kvitova occasionally awe-struck.
“Sometimes it’s unreal for me, too, to sit and say, ‘O.K., I won four titles this year already,’” she said. “It’s a little bit weird. But that’s why I actually came back, not only to play tennis but to be better. And, yeah, I think I’m not playing bad tennis right now.”
After the title run in Madrid, Kvitova pulled out of the next tournament, in Rome, so she could return home to rest. Now ranked eighth, she carries an 11-match winning streak into the French Open.
“To have these kinds of wins in a row, I couldn’t really see myself, probably, playing better,” she said.
Her first-round match at the French Open will be against 87th-ranked Verónica Cepede Royg of Paraguay. Kvitova still has a reflexive eye roll when asked about her capabilities on the clay — “no, I’m not acting with my eyes,” she said, smiling — but she is slowly convincing herself that she can thrive on the slow surface.
Still, she said, Roland Garros will find ways to challenge her.
“It can be hot, as today; it can rain and be very cold, so the balls are not really flying as I wish,” she said. “But that’s how it is, and that’s probably why it’s the Grand Slam, right? You have to be ready for two weeks of the best you can show.”