Czech star Petra Kvitova said that Sunday's first-round victory at the French Open felt like winning twice as she made an emotional return after a brutal knife attack took place at her home in December.
The two-time Wimbledon champion swept aside American Julia Boserup 6-3 6-2 in her first match since suffering career-threatening injuries to her left playing hand when she tackled an intruder at her home in the eastern Czech town of Prostejov.
"I came here as a winner already," said Kvitova, who returned to action at Roland Garros after almost six months out. "When we were thinking about playing here I told my coaches I wanted to come and win my first match. That was a dream. The motivation I had today was amazing -- and I really just didn't want to lose.
"This match was special to me. I won for the second time, if I can say that." Kvitova was left fighting to save her career after theattack, admitting earlier in the week that her hand was "stillnot 100%".
However, the 15th seed won the opening point of the match with a sweeping cross-court forehand to set the tone for aconvincing victory in just 74 minutes over world number 86 Boserup.
"The first point was amazing. I surprised myself with the forehand winner straightaway. It felt weird but great, as well. "It wasn't really about the game. I mean, I had big motivation, and I know that I was going to do everything I can even if I should just run from side to side to win it.
The 27-year-old received a warm welcome on Phillipe Chatrier court. She initially kept her emotions in check before finally shedding a few tears after sealing her place in round two.
"My team was there. My family was there. Everyone who helped me through the difficult time. So it was a real pleasure to play in front of them and play how I played," said Kvitova, whose team wore black t-shirts emblazoned with the words "courage" and "belief".
"I think I played well after six months off. I'm happy with the game, of course, but I mean, it wasn't really about the game today.
"Yesterday I was thinking how everything will be, and Icouldn't really imagine how that's going to be. I maybe thought that I would cry when I step on the court, but I didn't today. "I was happy, because normally I can control my emotion on the court, so I'm happy that I kind of did it, as well,this time.
"In the end, I didn't have to anymore. So, yeah, fewtears for after the match point. Of course going as a winnerfrom the centre court was much better than stepping on the court."
Fellow players were quick to offer their support to the popular Kvitova. "I see her this morning and I hug her," said 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. "It's great and she's looking happy. I'm more than happy she's back. I don't want to thinkof what she's gone through," added the Russian.
"I'm really happy for her and I'm glad to see all of the players giving her a warm welcome back because she deserves it and she's such a great champion and a truly amazing person off the court that she deserves that and more," said Rio Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig.
"You can tell by her results in the past that she's a fighter and things like that won't knock her down." Kvitova also provided a reassuring assessment of the conditon of her hand, saying she hadn't experienced any pain while on court.
"I didn't feel any differences, which is nice," she said. "I promised my doctor, who gave me the green light, thatif I feel pain in my hand during the match or in the practice, I'm stopping immediately."
A French Open semi-finalist in 2012, Kvitova will face Bethanie Mattek-Sands or Evgeniya Rodina in the next round.
With PTI inputs