Dressed for French Open, Kvitova wins all-Czech crown on return to action


PRAGUE (Reuters) – World number 12 Petra Kvitova returned to court dressed for the French Open but was happy to triumph in the women’s draw at an all-Czech tournament on Thursday as the sports world starts to slowly return from the novel coronavirus shutdown.

The Prague tournament – played among the top Czech men’s and women’s players but without fans and with ball boys and girls wearing gloves and face masks – was one of the first after professional tennis was suspended in early March as the world went into lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.

More tournaments are planned elsewhere, while some exhibition events without fans have already been played in countries such as Germany and the United States.

With the French Open originally set to take place this week, Kvitova wore the clothing collection she had ready for the season’s second Grand Slam.

“If there will be the French Open, then Nike has something else for me,” Kvitova, twice Wimbledon champion, said.

“I played better every day, so that is very positive,” she added on her return to action.

The Prague event was missing world number three Karolina Pliskova and last year’s French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova.

That left Kvitova to take on Karolina Muchova, ranked 26th in the world, in the final where they tapped rackets instead of hands when the match ended.

Kvitova did not drop a set in the three-round tournament, beating Muchova 6-3 6-3 in a rain-delayed match at a tennis club in the Czech capital.

Kvitova last played at the Qatar Open in February where she lost in the final to Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

Going into this week she had said finding rhythm and playing without fans would be the hardest part about returning.

In the men’s draw, 20-year-old Michael Vrbensky beat Zdenek Kolar 6-4 6-7(5) 10-8. The 405th ranked Vrbensky had beaten top seed Jiri Vesely, ranked 65th, in the first round.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Ken Ferris