By Pritha Sarkar
PARIS (Reuters) – Petra Kvitova came within three points of falling in the first round of the French Open before three successive aces and her nerves of steel carried her to a 3-6 6-1 7-5 win over little-known Paraguayan Veronica Cepede Royg on Monday.
The Czech, who suffered career-threatening injuries on her playing left hand after being attacked in her home by a knife-wielding intruder in December 2016, arrived in Paris on the back of an 11-match winning streak.
However, Cepede Royg came close to snapping that run as she edged 5-4 and 0-15 ahead on Kvitova’s serve in the third set.
But the woman who proved even her surgeon wrong by coming back to play top level tennis just five months after the attack unleashed three successive aces to survive that scare.
She was soon saluting the crowd with a raised clenched-fist as she broke in the next game before wrapping up victory to set up a second-round meeting with Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena.
“It was really tough, we played over two hours. I was more relaxed in the second but the third was tough again and I was lucky that I got the break,” Kvitova said in a courtside interview.
So what does she think of her winning streak that has earned her back-to-back claycourt titles in Prague and Madrid in the run up to Roland Garros?
“It might be 12 matches but it’s so far from Rafa,” summed up a grinning Kvitova as she acknowledged the feat of 10-times Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Alison Williams and Christian Radnedge)