"My overriding emotion was pure happiness," she told Noah Rubin of her first match back. (AP)

It's been nearly three years since Petra Kvitova suffered a horrific home invasion and knife attack, and in that time she's done some incredible things. Kvitova's returned to Grand Slam contention by making the Australian Open final, raised her ranking to a career-high No. 2 and won a whopping eight titles, racking up a WTA-most five in 2018. 

But, to her, one of the most meaningful moments was returning to tennis in the first place, at Roland Garros in 2017. Kvitova is the latest participant in Noah Rubin's "Behind The Racquet" project, in which players pose for a picture and tell a personal story that's important to them, and that French Open is what she chose to talk about.  

"The story of my attack is unfortunately not great, but how I came back is what I want people to know," Kvitova began her caption.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“The story of my attack is unfortunately not great, but how I came back is what I want people to know. It was obviously not something I expected to deal with and made me feel empty inside for a while. The attacker took my love, tennis, away from me. I didn’t want to just come back, I wanted to come back and play at the highest level. It was like a challenge for me. Mentally, it helped having resounding support from everyone in my life and others I didn’t know. I had lots of messages and emails, I had fellow tennis players, even tournaments, who filmed videos wishing me a good recovery, which helped me get through everything. It was heart warming to see all the faces smiling as I made my way back to my first tournament. Some players didn’t know how to act towards me at first, but there was a feeling of comfort to see all of them again. I truly missed the competition of being on the court. As a tennis player you have to deal with many tough aspects such as being on the road for long periods, the ups and downs on court. I knew I missed the sport when none of that mattered and I was just begging to have the chance to play and win, that was what I needed. I didn't really know how I was going to feel when I stepped on the court for the first time again at Roland Garros in 2017. I didn’t know how I would react and I was thinking maybe I would cry. I thought I would be filled with tears, but my overriding emotion was pure happiness. I, unfortunately, had some scary flashbacks during the match, but most of my thoughts were of tennis, which I was proud of. I do have to admit that I cried after the match and I heard that the girls were crying watching me win in the locker room too. I have a different perspective on life and see things a little differently now, but that competitiveness to win every time I step on court hasn’t left me. I always want to improve and I work for that winning feeling. I have to remind myself, win or lose, I am thankful to be there playing, which I could have lost in that moment a couple years ago.”

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"I thought I would be filled with tears, but my overriding emotion was pure happiness," she said of her first match back, in which she captured a straight-sets win over Julia Boserup. "I, unfortunately, had some scary flashbacks during the match, but most of my thoughts were of tennis, which I was proud of."

She added: "I have to remind myself, win or lose, I am thankful to be there playing, which I could have lost in that moment a couple years ago." 

Kvitova's attacker has been sentenced to eight years in prison.