Former World No 2 Anett Kontaveit announced her imminent retirement from the WTA Tour this week on social media, due to her on-going back issues.
Tennis has given and taught me a lot, and I am very grateful for that. It has been important for me to bring the Estonian flag to the tennis courts and to be able to play in front of my supporters and fans all over the world. I am ready for new challenges after my last effort as a professional tennis player – to enjoy the game and compete as hard as I can at Wimbledon. Anett Kontaveit
The Estonian, who emerged from a quiet suburb of Tallinn, says she will retire after Wimbledon because of a chronic back injury.
“Today I am announcing that I am ending my career as a competitive athlete,” Kontaveit wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “After several doctors’ visits and consultations with my medical team, I have been advised that I have lumbar disc degeneration in my back.
“This does not allow for full-scale training or continued competition. Therefore, it is impossible to continue at the top level in such a highly competitive field.”
Three months after receiving a bleak assessment of her long-term prospects in the face of a degenerative condition in her lower spine, the 27-year-old’s statement comes almost exactly a year after she reached a career-high ranking of No 2 in the world, the high-water mark of a career that took flight 9 months earlier, when she won the second title of her career in Cleveland.
That victory was the catalyst for a remarkable winning sequence that brought titles in Ostrava, Moscow and Cluj-Napoca, and propelled Kontaveit into the world’s top 10, the first Estonian player ever to achieve that distinction.
Kontaveit’s late-season surge also earned her a spot at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara, another first for her country, and she went on to reach the final of the year-end showpiece, losing out to Garbiñe Muguruza as she finished the season ranked 7th in the world.
The following spring brought another significant milestone, Kontaveit edging an epic final against Maria Sakkari to win the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy before reaching the quarter-finals in Stuttgart.
With that sequence of results, she extended her run of consecutive indoor victories to 22, a record only bettered by Steffi Graf and Monica Seles in the years since 1989.
Unlike Graf and Seles, though, Kontaveit was unable to replicate her success at the Grand Slams, where her best result was a quarter-final finish at the 2020 Australian Open, beating Belinda Bencic and Iga Swiatek back-to-back en route to the Last 8.
She also made WTA 1000 finals at 2018 Wuhan and 2022 Doha.
She spoke of her desire to alter that record but, although she would go on reach three further finals in 2022, the beginning of the end came in October, when back pain forced her to abandon her title defence in Ostrava and call time on her season.
Another two-month break followed in February, but there has been no respite, the Estonian winning just 3 of her 10 matches this year.
“Tennis has given and taught me a lot, and I am very grateful for that,” added Kontaveit. “It has been important for me to bring the Estonian flag to the tennis courts and to be able to play in front of my supporters and fans all over the world.
“I am ready for new challenges after my last effort as a professional tennis player – to enjoy the game and compete as hard as I can at Wimbledon.”
World No 1 Iga Swiatek was among many to send a message to Kontaveit, wishing her all the best in her post-tennis life.
“So sorry to read that. Wishing you all the best Anett,” Swiatek tweeted.
Kontaveit, now ranked 79th in the world, exited the Australian Open in the 2nd-round and has not played since a 1st-round defeat at the French Open in May.