Why we should all cheer for Kvitova in Australian Open final
NAOMI Osaka is a rising star of tennis - and would create history on many fronts should she win the Australian Open on Saturday night - but she's not the one who deserves the crowd's support inside Rod Laver Arena.
Twelve months on from a first-round loss at Melbourne Park that left her in the depths of despair, Petra Kvitova is within touching distance of making the venue the site of her third - and most remarkable - grand slam triumph.
Victory over Japan's Naomi Osaka in Saturday night's final would cap off an astonishing comeback for the Czech world No.6, who was attacked with a knife attack in late 2016 and looked unlikely to play at the top level again.
Already the two-time Wimbledon champion has progressed further than she dared dream was possible.
Doctors gave her a 10 per cent chance of again playing elite tennis after the violent home invasion, which left her with a near-severed finger and nerve damage in her hand.
There were also mental scars. Kvitova couldn't even be alone in a change room when she returned to the main stage at the 2017 French Open.
A first-round loss to German Andrea Petkovic at last year's Australian Open was a self-described low point in her comeback.
"I felt really terrible," Kvitova said.
"Of course losing in Wimbledon I was hurting a lot, as well, at the time. I think those two losses were really tough for me. Was especially in the grand slams, of course.
"How I felt wasn't really nice. Sometimes I'm probably too stressed and it's not really great."
Of the past eight finals she has played - including the Elite Trophy in Zhuhai before her attack - Kvitova has won all of them.
"I think it feels better to know this, that I do have better percentage of winning than losing in the final," she said.
"Every final is different, because every time is just different opponent or different place or time but I really love playing finals.
"I love playing on the big stages and this will be one of them."
As well as the Australian Open crown, the winner will take over the world No.1 ranking from Simona Halep.