London: Two-time champion Petra Kvitova denied she was the favourite to win Wimbledon, insisting she remained an "underground" figure as she returns from the terrifying knife attack that nearly ended her career.
The Czech star is playing just her third tournament on the comeback trail after her frightening ordeal at the hands of a knife-wielding burglar.
She suffered severe injuries to her playing left hand in December while fighting off the attacker in her own home.
In what was just her eighth match back since returning to tennis in May, the World No 12 beat Sweden's 53-ranked Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court in an emotional first round return to Wimbledon, the scene of her greatest triumphs.
She has already been installed as the bookmaker's favourite to win the crown in southwest London, ahead of compatriot Karolina Pliskova, British home favourite Johanna Konta, Spain's Garbine Muguruza and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
But Kvitova maintained she was an "underground" outsider with six more stops to go before reaching the dream destination, starting with Madison Brengle of the United States in round two.
"My expectation is to stand up on Wednesday in the match and just play what I can," the 27-year-old said, keeping her sights low.
"I don't see myself really too ahead. I'm just here to play every single match that I can. I'm not really thinking that I'm the favourite of the tournament. I'm still underground."
Kvitova refrained from speaking directly about the December attack as the police investigation in the Czech Republic is still ongoing.
"Every traumatic situation is always tough. I feel like for women it's more difficult because we are more sensitive and more emotional," she said.
"It's not easy. You still want to be focus on each point you are playing, but at the same time you just get upset with something else. It's just difficult to switch to tennis again."
The scars from the attack are causing Kvitova problems. She used a cream throughout her opening match to help her grip her racquet.
"It's just drying your hands," she said.
"With the scars on my hand, it's helping me to keep the racquet stronger than before."
Kvitova's surgeon, who perhaps could be said to have saved her career, sat in her box to watch Monday's match.
"It was a special one. I'm really glad that he took the invitation. He came with his wife to support me," she said.
Feeling the energy
The 2011 and 2014 champion received a heartfelt welcome from the Centre Court crowd, but they did not witness quite so many fist pumps from Kvitova.
"I couldn't still do it by my left, but that's okay. I'm using it sometimes. But then I realise every time that I couldn't do it. It's weird. But I can get used to this," she said.
"I felt the energy from the crowd and it was amazing to be back here at Wimbledon and playing on the beautiful Centre Court. It's the favourite court of my career.
"It was my motivation to come back and play in Wimbledon. I'm very happy that the dream came true."
Kvitova went out in the second round at the French Open in May in her comeback tournament but went on to win Birmingham, one of the Wimbledon warm-up events, boosting her credentials as a potential title winner at the All England Club.
She was due to play at Eastbourne last week but pulled out with an abdominal injury.
The Czech number two said she felt no pain during Monday's opener, but insisted she was lacking match sharpness in her serving and ground strokes.
Published Date: Jul 04, 2017 06:42 AM | Updated Date: Jul 04, 2017 06:42 AM