Estonian tennis star Anett Kontaveit, who ended her professional sporting career in July, said on ETV show "Hommik Anuga" that she is now completely at peace with her decision to retire. However, Kontaveit is a little afraid of how she will cope with all those things she has not had to deal with before.
"It's still nice to look at these things. It brings a tear to my eye - it's a proud feeling and it's a pleasure to see," said Kontaveit, as the show began with a video reel of highlights from her professional tennis career.
"At the same time, it already feels like it was a long time ago."
"I wouldn't have stopped for no reason. This back injury has become so bad over the years. It was holding me back so much that I felt I couldn't play at that level anymore. It was such a tough decision," she admitted.
"I'm the kind of person who thinks very long and hard before making any big decisions, so, I know it was the right decision and I'm 100 percent at peace with it. Of course, there are more things I could have still have achieved, but I know that when I was playing I gave 100 percent of myself. I did everything as well as I could and so I know this was the right decision for me."
Kontaveit, who began training to be a tennis player 22 years ago and has been on the international tennis circuit since 2007, was forced to call time on her professional career at the age of 27 due to a back injury, officially diagnosed as degeneration of a disc in her lower back. "It's just from overuse, the spine gets [strained] all the time. You run from corner to corner for hours every day, it just gets put under so much strain that parts like that just wear out, they get too much wattage," Kontaveit explained.
"I knew that at some point this career had to end. Top sport is all about tearing your body apart," added Kontaveit, who relied on painkillers to get through matches during the final few months of her career. "I would like to say though, that I don't regret doing it."
Does your back hurt in everyday life? "Yes, in my lower back basically. It hurts when I'm in a static position for a long time. It hurts a bit with certain movements, sometimes it hurts in the gym. It's not the kind of pain where I start crying and have to go home, but in some situations it still hurts."
What is the moment like, when you realize that something you've dedicated your entire life to is now over at this level? "It's a difficult moment. I've always been studying, doing other things and I've always felt I had a life outside of tennis. My life is not going to end there and then. But, when it actually happens, it's really quite difficult - much more difficult than I thought. I was still crying," Kontaveit said.
"You start to think that, I've been playing tennis since I was six years old, I'm good at it. There were a lot of tough thoughts."
"I think that everything that I have achieved or that I have accomplished will only sink in after a little while. Right now it's been kind of like being in a bubble," she said. "Of course there are some positives, I can be at home, I don't have to travel every week. A lot of the hard things that came with tennis are behind me now. But, one thing I'm really scared about is how I'm going to cope with all the things that I've never had to deal with before, like the routine of being at home, the cold and the long winter."
"My life certainly didn't end there when I stopped playing tennis," she said. "There are so many other opportunities in life. I think I'm pretty hard working and I hope to find something new and exciting to do. And maybe people really will hear from me again."
How much have you missed not having the free time to be a young woman? "When I was younger I missed it more. Now I have that freedom to do what I want to do. And I go to the gym at nine o'clock in the morning and work out every day," laughed Kontaveit, who is also studying psychology online at Indiana University. "I actually like to exercise. I don't do tennis every day, but I do some form of exercise every day."
"On social media, I consciously don't post so many workout or tennis pictures because I feel like, as I've been an athlete for so long, I want to share the things I do outside of sports so that people can maybe get to know me a little bit better," she said.
"Everybody knows that I play tennis and work out, but people don't know what I like to do outside of sport. I like to do different things. Now I've been able to spend a few weekends outside Tallinn, in Saaremaa and I've been on holiday to Greece. I really like spending time with friends."
Anett Kontaveit is set to play her farewell match against Tunisian Ons Jabeur (WTA No. 7) at the Tondiraba Ice Hall in Tallinn on November 11. Before that, she will play in an invitational tournament in Luxembourg this October.
Editor: Michael Cole