Petra Kvitova has tried to put her recent traumatic past behind her but the tears flowed at the Australian Open yesterday as the two-time Wimbledon champion reached her first Grand Slam semi-final since the horrific knife attack that almost ended her career more than two years ago.
After dashing Ashleigh Barty's hopes of ending the wait for a home-grown champion by winning 6-1 6-4 in Rod Laver Arena, Kvitova was asked on court if she had believed she could compete at such a level again.
With tears welling up in her eyes and the crowd rising to applaud her, Kvitova said softly: "No, I couldn't have imagined being back in this stadium and playing with the best."
Having had time to collect her thoughts, Kvitova told a later press conference: "I've been through a mix of emotions. Sometimes I don't really recognise anything from the past, but when Jim (Courier) asked that, it wasn't really easy for me to see myself being in a semi-final again after everything.
"I always wanted to come back and play at the highest level, to compete with the best, to play the Grand Slams and to actually go very deep in them, which is what is happening now. Yes, it brought out tears, but they were happy tears for sure."
Kvitova, who will meet Danielle Collins in the semi-finals after the 25-year-old American beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-5 6-1, suffered severe hand injuries in December 2016 after an intruder into her home held a knife to her throat.
For months there were doubts whether she would ever play again, but she returned at the French Open in 2017, won five titles last year and is now back to sixth in the world rankings.
She will go to the top of the world rankings for the first time in her career if she wins the title here or finishes runner-up to Serena Williams.
Barty rarely found her best form in front of home fans who are desperate for success.
The 22-year-old improved in the second set, but at 4-4 a loose forehand gave Kvitova her third break of the match.
The Czech converted her first match point in the following game when Barty netted a return.
Barty insisted afterwards that she had not been nervous.
"I was excited," she said. "I don't think it was a slow start. It was more of a Petra start. She took the match away from me. It was out of my control."
Collins, playing in her first Australian Open, had already beaten three seeds in Angelique Kerber, Julia Goerges and Caroline Garcia to make the quarter-finals and claimed the scalp of a fourth when she beat Pavlyuchenkova, who has now lost in all five of her appearances in Grand Slam quarter-finals.
"I think I'm playing really good tennis," Collins said. "I think I've gained more experience in the last year, which is great."