Kvitova, Halep driven by Australian Open heartbreak

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Petra Kvitova took a while to come to terms with her heartbreaking defeat in last year’s Australian Open final but the Czech says she can now look back on the experience as one of the top achievements of her career.

Kvitova was down a set and a break to Naomi Osaka and facing three match points when she fought back to level the final and force a decider before the two-time Wimbledon champion eventually fell 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4.

“It took me a while to get over the loss,” she told reporters on Saturday. “It’s been very painful for me to lose that final.”

However, the 29-year-old said she has managed to put her run to that final in context.

Kvitova underwent nearly four hours of surgery on her playing hand in 2016 after being attacked by a knife-wielding intruder at her home in the Czech Republic.

“After so many years of being in the final, it’s a great achievement. I should take it very positively,” said the seventh seed, who will open her campaign against compatriot Katerina Siniakova on Monday.

“Even now when I’m here, it’s really feeling very nice and I do have the best memories.”

World number four Simona Halep also endured the agony of a lost Australian Open final, going down in three sets to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018.

She hopes having Australian coach Darren Cahill back in her corner will help her land a third Grand Slam title.

“I want it badly,” said Halep, the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion. “But it’s very difficult.

“Also the heat sometimes, sometimes it’s cold. The changes are not easy for me to adjust. The very humid atmosphere when I played the final, it was tough for me.”

Second seed Karolina Pliskova has a tricky opener against France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who beat Australian world number one Ash Barty in the Fed Cup in November.

The Czech, however, is confident her fate will be in her own hands.

“I don’t know actually in which form she is right now,” Pliskova said. “I know it’s going to be a lot about me. Even if she’s playing great, I think I can still beat her.

“I know she can be dangerous. I’m sure it’s going to be difficult. For sure not an easy round.”

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