Plenty of silver lining in Petra Kvitova's loss in the Australian Open final

MELBOURNE, Australia -- It wasn't long after a tough, three-set loss in Australian Open final Saturday that Petra Kvitova made her way into the interview room ready to be peppered with questions from inquiring minds. As she answered, it was clear the loss stung, but her overarching message was one of perspective.

"I wanted to win and have the trophy," Kvitova said. "But I think I already won two years ago. So for me, it's amazing. I think I still don't really realize that I played the final. I've been through many, many things, not really great ones. I didn't know if I [was] going to hold the racket again. I'm holding it, so that's good."

Kvitova was referring to the injury she suffered to her left hand following a horrific knife attack in her home in December 2016.

Kvitova, who lost Saturday's match 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 to Naomi Osaka, needed several hours of surgery to save her fingers. She was off the tour for six months but returned at the French Open in May of the following year.

Her results since then have not been merely encouraging; they've exceeded expectations.

Kvitova, 28, won five titles in 2018. And on Saturday, she was within a couple of games of winning her third Grand Slam crown, to add to her two Wimbledon titles in 2011 and 2014.

Doctors gave Kvitova only a small chance of playing again after the attack, but she never gave up hope. Her resolve led her back to another Slam final here in Australia, where, if not for a brief letdown in the final set, she could have won.

"I wanted to be back at my greatest level as I played before," Kvitova said. "I knew it would be very, very difficult because my hand, it's not 100 percent and never will be. It's just how it is. I'm just trying to take maximum from the minimum.

"[But] I feel great. I'm playing great tennis. I don't think that I could really imagine the time to be kind of this player again."

When the disappointment subsides in the coming weeks, Kvitova will appreciate the outstanding tennis she played these past two weeks. Coming into the final, she had not dropped a set.

On Monday, Kvitova will leap to the No. 2 player ranking in the world, behind Osaka, equaling Kvitova's highest-ever ranking. And if she stays healthy, there's no reason she won't be competing for all the big titles in the months to come.

"I was pretty close, but pretty far, so I need one more step to hold [the trophy]," Kvitova said. "I think in a couple of weeks I am going to be back and play and work and whatever it takes, I am going to do that. There are still few things which I can improve, and we'll do it. So it's not the end. I'll be back for sure."

The fairytale comeback might have fallen short this time around, but Kvitova knows she's leaving Melbourne with another victory.