Tennis - Former World No. 3 Nadia Petrova, of Russia, is the latest player to be featured in the Behind the Racquet series, where she talks about her rise to the Top 3 in the world rankings and how her career was affected by injuries and her mother's death.
Nadia Petrova says she wanted to play professionally when she won her first ITF junior event at the age of 14
The Russian, who is now 37 years old, says she realised she wanted to play professionally at the age of 14 when she won her first ITF junior event and turned pro at the age of 17.
She quickly rose to the Top 10 and by 2006, she was ranked in the Top 3. But a hip injury in 2006 led to a stall in her rise and she says she was never able to get back to the same level of tennis. Although she returned to the Top 10 and competed at the top level for a few more years, a second hip injury in 2013 meant another break from the game and her mother's death in December 2013 forced her to take a break from the sport.
She did return to play briefly in 2014 but was not able to get back to her previous level and did not play in 2015 or 2016. She announced her retirement from the sport in January 2017. Petrova says her mother played a very important role in her career - and although she was demanding, it was necessary as she found it difficult to motivate herself without the support of her mother.
While she has remains fairly private about her personal life, her Instagram account does say she is a 'happy mom and proud daughter" Here is Petrova's link on the Behind the Racquet Instagram account. Behind the Racquet is an initiative by American tennis player Noah Rubin where players have talked about their on-court and offcourt journies, giving fans an insight to the lives of tennis players.
Several present and former players, have been featured on the series which has won acclaim from critics and fans for the insights into a tennis player's life.
Nadia Petrova won 37 titles on the WTA Tour, 13 in singles and 24 in doubles.
My mom was a bronze medalist in the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 4 x 400 relay. My dad coached an Olympic medalist in the hammer throw. I have sport in my genes. My parents introduced me to tennis and I had success right away.
At age 14, I won my first ITF Junior event and realized I wanted to play professionally. That same year, I played my first WTA event. The transition from juniors to the professional circuit was difficult because I had to raise my physical and mental level.
I slowly got to that level and at age 17, I turned professional. In 2005, I broke into the Top 10. In 2006, I climbed to number 3 in the world. I won tournament after tournament on clay and was one of the favorites heading into the 2006 French Open.
But the rest of the ride was not as smooth. A couple days before the 2006 French Open, I injured my left hip. That injury threw me off and I was never able to return to the same level of tennis. I came back and played the 2006 US Open Series but didn't win a match.
Over the next few years, I won some tournaments and returned to the Top 10. But in 2013, I suffered another hip injury that eventually ended my career. I missed half of the year. On a December morning in 2013, I got a phone call that my mom passed away in a car accident.
I put everything on hold, flew home, and prepared for the funeral. I tried to return to the circuit but did not have the mental energy. When your mind is not there, your body is not there either. I started breaking down and had multiple muscle tears.
I decided to take a break for the rest of the year. Losing my mother was really hard to digest and she played a huge role in my tennis career. She always wanted more for my tennis and was hard on me when it was necessary. I lost the person I leaned on”.
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She also reached the semi-finals at the French Open twice in singles in 2003 and 2005 and reached the quarter-finals at all the other slams. In doubles, she won the year-ending WTA Championships in 2004 with Meghann Shaughnessy, and in 2012 with Maria Kirilenko. She also won the bronze medal in the doubles competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics with Maria Kirilenko.