Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon tennis champion, was attacked by a man with a knife on Tuesday morning in her apartment in Prostejov, Czech Republic.
“In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand,” Kvitova wrote in a statement posted to her Facebook page hours after the assault. “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.”
The encounter was vicious; Kvitova’s agents confirmed an account of the struggle, first reported by the BBC, in which an assailant entered her apartment to rob it under the guise of checking a utility meter, not initially recognizing her identity. When he did, a struggle in a bathroom led to a knife against Kvitova’s throat. She was able to fight free and escape, but not before sustaining deep lacerations to the four fingers of her left hand, which severely cut and tore ligaments.
Damage to her left hand could affect her play: Kvitova plays left-handed and uses a two-handed backhand. She was taken to a hospital in Brno, the country’s second-largest city, roughly 40 miles away. Hours later, she underwent surgery to repair as much of her hand as possible, a session expected to last at least four hours.
Her prognosis for recovery was not known. The assailant, described by the police as a 35-year-old man, escaped from the scene.
Kvitova had been scheduled to begin her 2017 season at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, but had pulled out earlier Tuesday with an existing stress fracture in her right foot. The Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam event, begins on Jan. 16.
Kvitova, 26, reached her career-high ranking of No. 2 in 2011, the year of her first Wimbledon title; her second came in 2014. After falling out of the top 10 this year, she found success in the second half of the year, winning a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics; WTA titles in the Chinese cities Wuhan and Zhuhai; and a fifth Fed Cup title with her Czech teammates in November. She finished the year ranked 11th. Last week, she won the WTA’s sportsmanship award for the fifth time in six years.
Elite women’s tennis players have been subjected to violent attacks before, often with career-altering results. In 1993, top-ranked Monica Seles was stabbed during a match in Hamburg and did not return to the sport for more than two years. When she did, her dominance subsided, and she won only one more Grand Slam title to add to her previous eight.
In 2007, sixth-ranked Anna Chakvetadze and her family were assaulted during a home invasion in Moscow. Chakvetadze, who had made the semifinals of the United States Open three months before, was unable to replicate that success, and she retired in 2013 at age 26.
Chakvetadze said on Tuesday that she was “very upset” when she heard Kvitova had been attacked, emphasizing that mental recovery from such an attack can be more difficult than the physical aspects.
“Especially when you got badly injured, you always ask yourself, ‘Why did it happen?’ ” Chakvetadze said. “Could I do something different in that situation? I got an arm nerve injury after they tied it up with TV cable, and it took one month to feel my arm again. With a knife, it’s even worse. I hope she will recover as soon as possible, mentally and physically, but it would not be easy.”