Just five months after she suffered career-threatening hand injuries when she was stabbed by an intruder at her home, the two-time Wimbledon champion defeated Julia Boserup 6-3 6-2 in the first round of the French Open on Sunday.
Kvitova’s parents and two brothers were among her support camp on Court Philippe Chatrier, with her team decked out in T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Courage, Belief, Pojd (‘Come on’ in Czech)’.
The 27-year-old said: “At the time where we thought maybe I really could play again, we were thinking how can we do something special.
“The courage and belief, that’s what I probably had to have in this kind of situation. The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important.
“So that’s what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be inspiration for other people as well.”
Kvitova only allowed her emotion to show at the end of the match, dropping her racket to the clay and letting a few tears flow.
It was an altogether different day for world number one Angelique Kerber, who became the first top seed in the women’s draw at Roland Garros to lose in the first round in the Open era.
The German’s 6-2 6-2 loss to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia continued a difficult season and Kerber will be desperate for an improvement on grass.
There were winning starts for potential title contenders Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams, who turns 37 next month and is playing in a record 20th French Open.
Williams is at a grand slam without sister Serena for the first time since the Australian Open in 2011, with Serena expecting her first child this autumn.
“I think it’s not easy for her to watch, because obviously she knows she can do well here.
“So I think that she’s just excited about everything coming up in her life, on and off the court, and excited about returning here hopefully next year.”
Meanwhile Novak Djokovic made a winning start to his partnership with Andre Agassi and is keen to soak up as much knowledge as he can before the American heads back home.
Agassi has been tempted into coaching for the first time by the defending French Open champion but must leave Paris well before the tournament finishes.
Agassi sat impassively through Djokovic’s 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Marcel Granollers, a performance the second seed later described as a bit “rusty”.
The American also had a surprise visitor, with Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker popping out to shake the hand of his successor.
Djokovic and Agassi have been testing the partnership out this week, and the Serbian has already seen enough to know he wants it to continue.
“He’s going to stay, I hope, until the end of this week,” Djokovic said. “Then he has to leave because he has some things that he cannot reschedule.
“I’m going to try to use the time spent with him as best as we can. So far plenty of information, plenty of things to process. I’m really enjoying it.” Djokovic will play Portugal’s Joao Sousa in round two.
Rafael Nadal followed Djokovic into the second round as he began his quest for a 10th French Open title with a straightforward 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory over Benoit Paire.
Fifth seed Milos Raonic was a convincing 6-3 6-4 6-2 winner over Steve Darcis while Marin Cilic and David Goffin, who will both have high hopes for this tournament, also came through in straight sets.