Kontaveit about her career, friendships and future ambitions

On Thursday at the All England Club, Anett Kontaveit swung her racket for the last time on a single court as a professional tennis player.

Kontaveit, 27, announced last month that she would retire after Wimbledon due to a degenerative back injury. The former world No. 2 bowed out in the second round to Marie Bouzkova, losing 6-1, 6-2. Kontaveit remains in a mixed doubles tie with Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori.

“It was incredible to have Court 18 full of people, so many people cheering me on,” Kontaveit said. “Obviously the match didn’t go the way I wanted, but I was so happy to be able to play in front of so many people, so many people who love me could see me play for the last time – in singles.”

In pictures: Anett Kontaveit calls it a career

Kontaveit’s retirement announcement came as a shock to the Hologic WTA Tour locker room. Ons Jabeur did her best to try and talk Kontaveit out of retirement, but the estor made it clear that her decision was not a choice.

“It’s really sweet that they try [to talk me out of it]”, Kontaveit said. “A lot of people tried.”

“But these decisions, because I can’t play without pain pretty much the whole game, it was obviously something I thought about for a very long time. But it was a very difficult decision, and once I decide on something big like this, usually not to begin to doubt it.”

Daria Kasatkina counts Kontaveit as one of her best friends on tour.

“Knowing that she will end quite early, given her age, it breaks my heart,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure Anett, she’ll be a happy person in life. She has so many interests. She’s a very interesting person and I think she’ll find her place, for sure.”

Kontaveit sat down with wtatennis.com before the tournament to reflect on her journey:

WTA Insider: When did the reality of retirement start to crystallize for you?

Kontaveit: I don’t have an exact moment when it was a clear decision, but I had given it some thought. I just didn’t want to talk about it in public and make a fuss when I wasn’t sure about something. I went through all sorts of different emotions while this processing was going on.

So yes, I had been thinking about it for a while. My back has been bothering me since last year, so it was something I knew at the time that playing tennis would be difficult to manage. I felt like I couldn’t give 100 percent every time I played, so it was also hard mentally not being able to do that.

WTA Insider: Does this feel bittersweet?

Kontaveit: I would say now that I feel at peace with it, but it was definitely difficult before, especially right before the announcement. It was very hard. I was just sad and sad. It has been my whole life. That’s what I’ve done for most of the 27 years I’ve been alive. So yeah, I think it was a difficult thing to process.

But one day I woke up and I felt happy again. I think time has helped me come to terms with it.

WTA Insider: The response from the locker room was overwhelming after you announced that Wimbledon would be your last tournament. Did it surprise you?

Kontaveit: Everyone has been really nice and said some really nice and kind words and wished me luck with the next chapters. It has been very heartwarming and I appreciate that they are all so nice and supportive about it.

I think I was quite a social person and that’s why I’m really happy that there are so many girls who care about me, who I’m comfortable with and who really want the best for me.

“I was very, very upset. I honestly tried to convince her not to do it, but I didn’t succeed.”

– Our Jabeur

It has been great to be able to share this kind of journey with Ons and Maria, for example, because we have grown up together in a way. I have known them from juniors and I am really happy to see them doing well. It’s been great that I’ve been able to do well as well.

So playing at this high level at the same time, playing in finals against each other, it’s been really special.

WTA Insider: You get along with everyone, from the top of the rankings to the lower-ranked players, whether they’re singles or doubles. What has been the secret to maintaining these relationships with your competitors?

Kontaveit: I’m not sure. It is a very competitive environment. It’s definitely not easy to make friends here.

It’s just been a process. I’ve been on tour for quite a few years and have had time to get to know a lot of the girls. Whatever happens on the field, I like to leave it on the field and then off the field we can all be friendly and get along. I think that’s part of what I’m trying to do.

WTA Insider: What surprised you the most about your career?

Kontaveit: I think I had this goal of making the Top 10, but at one point I actually think I didn’t believe I was going to make it in the end. So I am very proud of the things I have achieved and the titles I have won.

To get to the WTA finals as the first ever Estonian, I think is a big thing. When you come from a small country, it’s a little harder to dream so big. You try to be more realistic because you don’t have so many role models in front of you. I have Kaia [Kanepi] and she was Top 20.

But none had been Top 10. None had reached the WTA Finals. So there were many things that you don’t even dare to dream about.

WTA Insider: What was the most significant moment of your career?

Kontaveit: Hard question. I don’t know if I should say Australian Open quarters or if I should say WTA Finals. But of course I think nothing beats winning a tournament, so I would say winning my first WTA tournament.

WTA Insider: What does the immediate future hold for you?

Kontaveit: I’m studying psychology at Indiana University, so I want to do that. I take more hours so I have more to do. Hopefully I’ll go on some spontaneous trips. I need to find friends who don’t work. It is very difficult.

But apart from that, I don’t have big plans. I think I need to learn to relax a little, take some time off and figure out what I want. I already find studying to be a big commitment, so I’ll deal with that for now.

WTA Insider: Will we still see you around tennis?

Kontaveit: I think I will stay connected with tennis. I don’t know exactly how to do it right now, but maybe do something with Estonian tennis and a side of the studio and then we’ll see. I’m not making any promises right now. We’ll see what kind of ideas I get.

But yes, I think it would be good to use this experience that I have gained from the tour later in life.

WTA Insider: What has being a professional tennis player meant to you?

Kontaveit: It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It has been my whole life.

It has taught me so many things and I am very, very grateful that I have been able to do this.

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