The 38-year-old from Croatia, long retired, returns in doubles at the Kremlin Cup this week.
Iva Majoli hasn’t played singles on the WTA Tour since April, 2004. She hasn’t played doubles at the top level since the 2003 US Open.
That’s early retirement, by pro standards these days; she was just 26 at that US Open and, most notably, upset Martina Hingis to win the 1997 French Open – the only Grand Slam Hingis failed to win that season.
But she’s back this week, at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, with a wild card into the doubles as she partners up with Russian Anastasia Bukhanko.
The two will play Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and Raluca Olaru of Romania in the first round.
Bukhanko is not exactly some young up-and-comer being given a break by her home tournament. She’s 25; her highest ranking in singles was No. 1096 last June, and her highest ranking in doubles was No. 909, last month.
She has rarely played above the ITF level – in fact, until two years ago, she had played a total of one tournament at the ITF level. A year ago, she received a wild card into the singles qualifying in Moscow, and got two games against countrywoman Ekaterina Bychkova.
Bukhanko has eight career match wins in doubles (all but one at the lowest level, the $10,000 tournaments) and one career win in singles, also at the $10,000 level. She has no record at all at the ITF level in juniors.
All of which to say: 1) she must know somebody, because there are a lot of wild cards on her resumé and 2) Dabrowski and Olaru shouldn’t have a problem.
As for Majoli, she is not on the ITF’s official retired list (although she announce her retirement in June, 2004), so she probably is exempt from the anti-doping requirements in terms of returning to play. She may be benefiting from the grandfather clause – grandmother clause? – for those who stopped playing before 2009, as Patrick Rafter did when he played doubles at the Australian Open with Lleyton Hewitt a couple of years ago.
Then again, that’s the ITF; this is the ATP. As usual, these areas are rather murky.
The Croat has been a regular presence around the circuit in recent years, though; we’ve seen her in the legends events as far back as 2007, when she was all wrapped up like a mummy, tape everywhere, in the US Open.
She’s the captain of the Croatian Fed Cup team, and you’ll often see her courtside supporting some of her players – notably Donna Vekic and Ana Konjuh.
She was part of the legends event at the WTA Finals in Singapore last year (see top pic), and brought her daughter Mia, who turns nine on Hallowe’en; so maybe this is a bit of a warmup for that one. 🙂