It was a Tuesday in December, freezing cold in Prostejov, Czech Republic, when Petra Kvitova’s doorbell rang.
Only hours before, the two-time Wimbledon champion had pulled out of the Hopman Cup held in Perth, due to a foot stress fracture which refused to heal.
The 26-year-old was devastated. Five years before she had been ranked world number two in the world after beating Maria Sharapova in straight sets at the final of Wimbledon.
Now, she was housebound.
On that Tuesday, she answered the door. It was a tradesman, there to check her utility meter.
At least that’s what she thought.
The man, believed to be in his 30s, would execute an attack on Petra that would threaten her professional tennis career, both physically and psychologically.
They were both in the bathroom when the man first attacked her. Petra fought back, only to be confronted with a knife, which was held to her throat.
During the struggle, the bronze medallist sustained multiple stab wounds to her left hand – the same hand she uses to hold her racket.
In the moments that followed, the young woman fought off her attacker. After he fled, Petra called emergency services, and was transported to a hospital almost 65 kilometres away.
It took almost four hours for doctors to repair the tendon damage in all five of her fingers, as well as damage to two nerves.
The nerve injuries, according to Dr Michael W. Kesller, a chief hand and elbow surgeon, were likely going to cause the most disruption to Petra’s tennis career. Nerve damage results in numbness, meaning a player cannot receive the same “feedback from the fingertips” that they had likely come to rely upon.