As the BNP Paribas Open gets underway in Indian Wells, consider the presence of those who are absent. World number one Serena Williams, victorious at this event in ’99 and ’01, has withdrawn. Defending champion Victoria Azarenka, also a winner in ’12, remains on maternity leave. A two-time titlist, Maria Sharapova (’06, ’13), is still serving her suspension. Ana Ivanovic, who lifted the trophy nine years ago, has retired.
Then there’s Petra Kvitova, who today turns 27. In seven trips to Indian Wells, Kvitova has only twice reached the quarterfinals, last year going out at that stage to Agnieszka Radwanska.
But the real story with Kvitova has less to do with her Indian Wells results and more related to the horrible injury she has suffered to her left hand, the tendons torn when Kvitova was robbed and attacked in her apartment last December. Kvitova is expected to return to tennis in late May or June. But of course, this is not your garden variety sports injury, complete with a clear recovery timetable. And who can determine the psychological scars?
In 2007, sixth-ranked Anna Chakvetadze and her parents were tied up by robbers in their Moscow. In the wake of that trauma, everything from fear of further assault – the robbers had stated that more could come another time – to overtraining turned a promising career into a premature retirement.
The Indian Wells Tennis Garden features a large billboard that reads “Get Well Petra.” Fans have posted their greetings to the sign too.
Yesterday we marked the birthday of another great Czech tennis player, Ivan Lendl, a man who who ended his career with his personal meter thoroughly reading “empty.” But for Lendl, retirement was the result of years spent thoroughly exerting himself on and off the court. Kvitova’s return is eagerly anticipated. Interestingly, she holds the one major title Lendl did not win – the Wimbledon singles, a tournament she’s won twice. But hopefully, like Lendl, Kvitova’s eventual exit from tennis will be driven strictly by her tennis.