By DAN IMHOFF
Perspective is often the perfect grounding for an athlete, particularly in the all-consuming world of an individual pursuit.
For a two-time Grand Slam champion, that drive to succeed can become an insatiable hunger for more big titles.
Having survived an attack in her home in the Czech Republic last December, though, it is not even about the titles for Petra Kvitova these days.
Relaxed and thankful to be back on court, the three-time Connecticut Open champion is not reading into a pair of early exits in back-to-back hard-court events to Sloane Stephens leading in.
It is a matter of simply getting another chance at doing what she truly loves to do, something that was no longer a priority eight months ago.
“I’m not comparing matches right now. I’m happy I can play, that’s the most important thing for me right now,” Kvitova said.
“Everything that I play is a bonus. I didn’t expect to be back on the tour and at least I am. Even though I lost to Sloane twice I don’t really feel bad. I should take the matches as a bonus.”
The Czech returns to the Connecticut Open as a three-time champion. It is a familiar setting, one far from the hustle and bustle of New York City as she prepares for her final Grand Slam event of an extraordinary comeback season.
“It’s just nice to know that you’re somewhere you’ve played well and you feel well,” she said.
“I don’t like to be in New York the week before the grand slam so that’s why I always choose to play New Haven.”
It is an event not unlike Birmingham, the site of where some would deem her 2017 triumph an even greater surprise than that of her first Wimbledon title. It was on the grass of the Edgbaston Priory Club that she claimed so far her only title of the season, in just her second event back after six months of hand rehabilitation.
“From the time I won Birmingham I was still surprised,” Kvitova said. “I’m still surprised that I won that big tournament.
“That was a very nice memory … After this kind of comeback it was difficult to still keep [my level] so high so I’m not that surprised a few losses have come.”
The 27-year-old opens her 2017 Connecticut Open campaign on Monday night against Shuai Zhang.
Expectations have changed and it is still very much a steady road back with plenty of bumps along the way. The hand is slowly healing though it is a test of patience and belief.
“It’s not up and down but it’s very, very slow so I really don’t know how everything will be,” Kvitova said. “Nobody knows. It’s still not 100 per cent so we’ll see how long it’ll take to be there or if I can get there.
“I should take all these matches and tournaments as a bonus of this season. Nobody knew if I would be able to play again.”
It is that very perspective that ensures the Czech remains relaxed and thankful just to be back on court.