PRAGUE Two-time Wimbledon tennis champion Petra Kvitova underwent nearly four hours of surgery on her playing hand on Tuesday after she was stabbed by a knife-wielding intruder in her home in the Czech Republic.
Early indications showed the Czech world number 11 could well make a recovery and return to tennis, where she has been a mainstay in the top rankings for the past five years.
"The scale of the injury is serious, but Petra is young and strong, according to the surgeon, who sees no reason why she could not return to playing tennis," Karel Tejkal, spokesman for the Czech Fed Cup team, said.
Doctors operated on all five fingers of her left hand and she will not be able to exert pressure on the injured hand for three months to let repairs to tendons heal, he said.
Kvitova had said on social media before undergoing surgery that the attack by an individual with a knife on Tuesday had left her "shaken, but fortunate to be alive".
The assault took place in her flat in the city of Prostejov, about 260 km (160 miles) southeast of Prague, the location of a tennis club where she, men's world number 10 Tomas Berdych and other top-ranked Czech players often train.
Czech media reported the intruder presented himself to Kvitova as a boiler inspector.
"In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand," Kvitova said on Twitter. "The injury is severe and I will need to see specialists, but if you know anything about me I am strong and I will fight this."
The 26-year-old had been due later in the day to play a charity event in the Czech Republic's second biggest city Brno alongside compatriot Lucie Safarova. The pair have been fixtures in the Czech Fed Cup team that has won the premier women's team tennis event in five of the last six years.
"What happened to Petra, can happen to any of us. I got goosebumps from it," Safarova told news website Aktualne.cz.
Czech-born tennis great Martina Navratilova said on Twitter: "Just finding out about @Petra_Kvitova and the awful stabbing and injury to her hand - pulling for you Petra."
World number three Agnieszka Radwanska also voiced support for Kvitova. "My thoughts are with @Petra_Kvitova. Terrible news," she Tweeted.
Tejkal had earlier told Czech media the morning attack had been "a random criminal act" and that Kvitova had not been specifically targeted.
"What has happened to me was not pleasant at all, but it is already behind me," Kvitova said.
The hard-hitting left-hander rose to number two in 2011 when she won the first of her two Wimbledon singles titles.
She slipped in the rankings this year but showed improved form in recent months, winning the Wuhan Open title in October and the season-ending WTA Elite trophy in November.
In 1993, then-world number one Monica Seles was stabbed courtside during a break at a tournament in Germany by a man who admitted having an obsession with her rival Steffi Graf. The attack forced Seles out of tennis for two years.
(Additional reporting by Petra Vodstrcilova in Prague and Martyn Herman in London; Editing by Ed Osmond)