WTA Finals — Kvitova's reward after fitness fight

Petra Kvitova became the sixth player to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen. — Courtesy photo
Petra Kvitova became the sixth player to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen. — Courtesy photo

PRAGUE — A slot in the WTA Finals is ample reward for grappling with injuries for much of the year two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova told reporters on Monday as she prepared to head out to Shenzhen, China.

The 29-year-old Czech-born world number six, Kvitova made the Australian Open final in January before skipping the French Open in May to rest an injury to her playing hand.

"The forearm feels much better, it doesn't swell too much any more. It's getting better," Kvitova told reporters ahead of the tournament which starts October 27.

"When I play longer matches, I can feel it the next day, but it's nothing terrible."

"I missed lots of training sessions so the tournaments have been tough."

Kvitova's problems started late in 2016 when she suffered a horrific injury in a knife attack by an intruder at her home.

Despite grim forecasts by doctors, who even warned she might lose her fingers, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion recovered within six months.

The attacker received eight years in prison earlier this year while Kvitova's problems have moved from her palm and fingers to the forearm.

Having bowed out of this year's US Open in the second round, Kvitova got a boost at two tournaments in China in September, reaching the semifinals at Wuhan and the quarterfinals at Beijing.

"It was nice after all those struggles. I could see the old aspects of my play, being aggressive, it came back again," she added.

Wuhan and Beijing "were good tournaments, so I made the hand work pretty hard and I needed a break after that," Kvitova said.

Instead of training in the run-up to Shenzhen, Kvitova has spent time with her family to rest both her body and mind.

"I hope the last tournament of the season will be similar" to Wuhan and Beijing, said Kvitova.

"I'm really happy I actually made it to the WTA Final, it's a reward. But I won't go as a tourist, I want to play good tennis."

Kvitova will join Ashleigh Barty, compatriot Karolina Pliskova, Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep, Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina at her seventh WTA Final tournament.

"That makes me a veteran, right?" Kvitova chuckled.

"At the WTA Final, you play for each game, set, match. You can't predict anything, that's what I like about it."

"I only hope some fans will show up," she said, hinting at an expected poor attendance in a country where fan favor is quirky.

Kvitova is popular in China, possibly because of her friendship with local star Li Na and a special moment at the 2014 China Open.

"I think it dates back from the Li Na times. I had a speech at her farewell in Beijing (in 2014), which was tough emotionally, and I think the fans started to like me," Kvitova said.

"Now they come with Czech flags, they are there after my training sessions, they wear my shirts and give me presents and even shout 'Pojd' in Czech during games," she added, mentioning her trademark "come on" shout.

"Once I was leaving the training place at Wuhan and a lady shouted 'good luck' at me in Czech. It must be a terrible challenge for them, our language, so I really appreciated that." — AFP