July 22, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

At 27, Anett Kontaveit set to retire at Wimbledon

With player careers going longer and longer these days – through several maternity leaves, injury breaks and then of course there’s … Venus Williams – it has become an outlier when a player hangs up the racquets while still in their prime.

But as with everyone, the body decides.

And so 27-year-old Anett Kontaveit, who put Estonia on the tennis map at the very top level, has announced that Wimbledon will be her final tournament.

Lumbar disc degeneration is a career-ender in the sense that even if the athlete continues at any cost to try to stay on court, the consequences in terms of living the 60 years afterwards could be real. Not to mention the pain.

After a decade on the WTA Tour, it was probably the logical call – even though none of us can know the sweat and tears over the last couple of years to try to overcome it, and in making that gut-wrenching decision.

It says a lot about Kontaveit the person versus Kontaveit the player – the far more important part, in the big picture – when you see all the comments from her fellow players on the above Instagram post.

Sometimes nice guys don’t finish last.

Kontaveit got all the way to No. 2 in the world and still kept the generosity of spirit that made her a favorite with everyone.

Here are a few moments from her career through the years, as captured by Open Court.

Challenging times

Kontaveit played a full season in 2022 after her crazy run at the end of 2021, one that landed her in the WTA Finals out of almost nowhere.

But 2023 has been a struggle to stay on court, after the back issue forced a retirement in Ostrava in the fall of 2022 and ended her season.

Kontaveit did get to Australia, still a top-20 player. But with the tough fields down there, she lost in the first round in Adelaide I to Zheng Qinwen, and in the first round of Adelaide 2 to Paula Badosa. The Estonian did win a round at the Australian Open before going out to Magda Linette.

Then, a refirement in the second round in Abu Dhabi, after which she was gone 2 1/2 months before a first-round loss in Madrid, her ranking down to No. 87. She did join Team Estonia in the Group II BJK Cup playoffs in mid-April.

Konteveit tried, in Rome and Roland Garros. But it was clear not much was happening.

A late surge, out of nowhere

Kontaveit was ranked No. 30 – and No. 26 in the race to the WTA Finals – when she made a late-season indoor run in 2021 that still impresses.

She won the WTA 500 in Ostrava without dropping a set (beating Cirstea, Badosa, Bencic, Kvitova and Sakkari – all but Cirstea ranked higher).

She returned to the U.S. and made the quarterfinals at the fall edition of Indian Wells. Then back to Europe where she won the Moscow 500 (one set lost) and the WTA 250 in Cluj-Napoca (no sets lost) to qualify at the last minute for the WTA Finals.

Kontaveit and Maria Sharapova at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2019. Kontaveit was the winner.

Those were held outdoors in Guadalajara, Mexico, a last-minute relocation because the pandemic made it impossible to play in China.

She beat Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Krejcikova in the group stages, and Maria Sakkari in the semifinals before Garbiñe Muguruza beat her in the final.

Kontaveit, whose year-end ranking the previous four years had been in the 20s and 30s – respectable, but far from world-beating – ended the 2021 season ranked No. 7.

After making the third round at Roland Garros last year she rose to No. 2, where she remained until after the US Open.

There were no huge Grand Slam moments during Kontaveit’s career. She made the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in 2020, and the round of 16 at the 2015 US Open, the Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2018 and again at the US Open in 2020.

But that was it. Her career is measured by her steadiness, day in and day out – with that one shining moment.

Big-time in the juniors

Kontaveit got as high as No. 4 in the ITF junior rankings, after the 2012 US Open juniors.

It was a top-quality era: Kontaveit’s junior rivals included Jennifer Brady, Elina Svitolina, Alison Van Uytvanck, Ashleigh Barty, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Caroline Garcia, Jelena Ostapenko, Danielle Collins, Yulia Putintseva, Taylor Townsend, Elise Mertens, Beatriz Haddad Maia, Ana Konjuh, Katerina Siniakova and Belinda Bencic.

Kontaveit at junior Wimbledon in 2012.

She defeated Canadian Genie Bouchard, who was nearly two years older, in the semifinals of the Orange Bowl in 2011 and in the third round of Roland Garros in 2012.

But Bouchard got the big one: the Wimbledon junior semifinals later that year, after which Bouchard went on to win the title.

In the end, Kontaveit won six WTA Tour titles, including those four in 2021. She made 10 other finals.

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