Petra Kvitova could save three championship points in the second set.
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She could hold serve from 0-40 down in the third set to avoid falling a double-break behind.
But she couldn’t produce a third escape act in the pulsating Australian Open women’s final, a decider to live long in the memory.
Kvitova played her part in Saturday night’s dramatic final, jumping off the canvas when all looked lost before submitting to Naomi Osaka 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4.
Given what the Czech has been through off the court, it’s no surprise Kvitova would show such fighting qualities.
The victim of a home invasion two years ago, the two-time Wimbledon champion laid bare her struggle to regain form in the aftermath of her hand injuries.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe I just played a final of a grand slam again,” she said on the presentation dais through tears.
“It’s a great tournament for me. It is a big honour to hold this beautiful trophy as well. It has been a while to be in a final for me and I need to thank my family and friends back home who were really supporting me right through the match.
“I want to say thank you to everyone who made this possible.
“To my team, thank you for everything. But mostly, thank you for sticking with me even when we didn’t know if I would able to hold a racquet again.
“Every single day you have been supporting me and staying positive for me, which I really needed. It probably was not easy, so thank you so. And a big thank you to all of you who came to support us.”
The No. 8 seed also made the poignant comment that she had “already won two years ago” when against all odds she returned to the sport she loves.
Kvitova’s emotional reflection on how far she’s come since suffering the horrific injuries that threatened to end her career provided the most touching moment of the night.
The mental demons she had to overcome, as well as the physical, had the world in awe and hearts melted during her tearful address.
CHECK OUT KVITOVA’S SPEECH IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE
Doctors gave Kvitova a 10 per cent chance of playing elite tennis again after the violent home invasion which left her with a near-severed finger and nerve damage in her hand.
There were also emotional scars. Kvitova couldn’t even be alone in a changeroom when she returned to the main stage at the 2017 French Open. A first-round loss to German Andrea Petkovic at last year’s Australian Open was a self-described low point in her comeback.
“I felt really terrible,” Kvitova said of her situation 12 months ago.
“Of course losing in Wimbledon was hurting a lot, as well, at the time. I think those two losses were really tough for me. Was especially in the grand slams, of course.
“How I felt wasn’t really nice. Sometimes I’m probably too stressed and it’s not really great.”
To say Kvitova has bounced back is an understatement.
While Osaka was a deserving winner, Kvitova let slip two big chances to claim the championship herself.
The first set was played on her terms, but she botched the big points, losing all five of her break points before Osaka won the tiebreak.
Having claimed the second set, she took all the momentum into the decider — winning 23 of 27 points into Osaka’s first service game of the third set — but dropped her level once more.
In any case, Kvitova looked genuinely delighted when she received her runners up plate.
The victory was getting there.
Osaka was deferential to the soon-to-be world No. 2, who hadn’t dropped a set until the final and looked to have returned as a major force on tour.
“I’ve always wanted to play you and you have been through so much,” Osaka said. “I wouldn’t have wanted this to be our first match.
“Huge congrats to you and your team. You are really amazing and I am really honoured to have played you in the final of a grand slam.”