Anett Kontaveit reflects on constant tennis sacrifices, being No. 2, retiring at 27

Kontaveit, who retired at 27 due to a chronic back injury in July, went down as the greatest Estonian player ever.

by Dzevad Mesic
Anett Kontaveit reflects on constant tennis sacrifices, being No. 2, retiring at 27
© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Newly retired Anett Kontaveit, 28, described tennis life as "a constant sacrifice" but suggests it was all worth it since she was able to make her dreams of becoming a pro tennis player a reality and then do it very successfully. 

Kontaveit, who turned pro in 2010, won her first title at an ITF event in Tallinn in 2011. In her first couple of years, Kontaveit achieved certain success on the ITF level, winning 10 ITF titles between 2011 and 2015. 

At the 2015 US Open, Kontaveit made her first notable Grand Slam result when she as a qualifier made the round-of-16. In her US Open debut that year, Kontaveit's run ended with a loss to former world No. 1 Venus Williams. Kontaveit, who was ranked at No. 152 during the 2015 US Open, broke into the top-100 for the first time after her run at Flushing Meadows as she reached the world No. 96 spot on September 14th, 2015.

In 2017, Kontaveit won her first WTA title on the grass courts of 's-Hertogenbosch. The following year, Kontaveit also broke into the top-20 for the first time in her career when she got to No. 20 spot on October 22nd, 2018. 

"I think to be in the top 20 in such a highly competitive sport is a great achievement. Of course it was a constant sacrifice all the time, training, being abroad, being away from family. All the things that other people might take for granted, I often didn't have. It was a lot of hard work, and it was a lot of hard work to go out and compete. I couldn't make any plans, everything was always on a tennis schedule and everything... my whole life has revolved around a tennis tour schedule," Kontaveit told ERR.

Anett Kontaveit
Anett Kontaveit© Getty Images Sport - Sarah Stier

Kontaveit 'never thought' she could be No. 2 one day 

After winning her first WTA title and becoming a top-20 player, Kontaveit went to achieve a lot more and go down as the most successful Estonian player ever. 

In the second part of the 2021 season, Kontaveit was one of the most impressive players. After five consecutive defeats, Kontaveit won a WTA 250 title in Cleveland the week before the 2021 US Open. After losing to Iga Swiatek in the 2021 US Open third round in a tight three-setter, Kontaveit won Ostrava in late September. In October, Kontaveit won back-to-back titles in Moscow and Cluj-Napoca - bringing her tally to four titles in just two months. 

After making it all the way in Moscow and Cluj-Napoca, Kontaveit broke into the top-10 for the first time in her career on November 1st, 2021. By reaching the world No. 10 position, Kontaveit made Estonian tennis history as she became the first-ever player from her nation to break into the top-10. 

Following a series of strong results in late 2021, Kontaveit also earned one of the last spots for the WTA Finals. In her WTA Finals debut in Guadalajara, Kontaveit continued her strong form as the Estonian ended up making the final in her debut. Unfortunately for Kontaveit, she fell just short of winning the WTA Finals that year after Garbine Muguruza handed her a 6-3 7-5 defeat. 

When the 2022 season started, Kontaveit got off to a promising start as she was a semifinalist in Sydney. In February, Kontaveit won St. Petersburg before losing the Doha final to Swiatek in her next tournament. 

In the next couple of months, Kontaveit didn't do very well as she contracted COVID and later dealt with the after-effects of the virus. Still, Kontaveit - who didn't have much points to defend in that part of the year - reached a career-high ranking of No. 2 on June 6th, 2021.

"But I think it's just an achievement that I never thought could happen in my career. My goal was always to reach the top ten. And the fact that I achieved that goal so well is definitely something to be really proud of, and when you think about it, all the sacrifices that had to be made seem so self-evident," Kontaveit said.

Anett Kontaveit
Anett Kontaveit© Getty Images Sport - Mohamed Farag

'Proud' Kontaveit has no regrets

In the second part of the 2022 season, Kontaveit started to deal with a back injury. After not doing well in a couple of tournaments, Kontaveit managed to reach the Tallinn final - she ended up losing 2-6 3-6 to Barbora Krejcikova. The following week, Kontaveit retired mid-match her Ostrava match to Tereza Martincova. After the Ostrava exit, Kontaveit announced she was ending her 2022 season prematurely to address her back injury.

Kontaveit was able to start her 2023 season in time but it was evident that she was still far from her best. At the start of the 2023 season, Kontaveit picked up back-to-back first-round exits in Adelaide 1 and Adelaide 2 before losing in the Australian Open second round. Then in early February, Kontaveit picked up another early loss when she lost to Shelby Rogers in the Abu Dhabi round-of-16.

After starting the 2023 season with a 2-4 record, Kontaveit revealed she was still dealing with a back injury and announced she was taking another break to address the injury. Kontaveit returned to action in April but her poor results continued as she lost in the French Open and Madrid first round, while she exited Rome in the second round. 

Then just two weeks before Wimbledon, Kontaveit announced she would be retiring at The Champions due to a lumbar disc degeneration in her back. When Kontaveit announced she would be retiring at 27 - just a year after reaching the world No. 2 spot - the entire tennis world was shocked. 

At Wimbledon, Kontaveit defeated Lucrezia Stefanini in her opener before losing to Marie Bouzkova in the second round. In the end, Kontaveit finished her career with six titles - a WTA Finals appearance - and she was also once ranked among the top-2. Although Kontaveit was forced to retire at 27, the now 28-year-old Estonian insists she is proud of herself and has no regrets.

Anett Kontaveit and Marie Bouzkova
Anett Kontaveit and Marie Bouzkova© Getty Images Sport - Shaun Botterill

"When I think back on my career, I'm the kind of person who doesn't have many regrets about anything I've done, even if it hasn't gone exactly the way I wanted it to. Because I always give a hundred percent and I know that throughout my career I gave as much as I could every time. In that sense, I'm very proud of myself and I'm very happy with what I achieved," Kontaveit said.

Anett Kontaveit