She was climbing the WTA Rankings and making her mark in some of the biggest events in the game, but then Tamira Paszek’s story stopped.
The Austrian earned nearly $2.5 million as she excelled at the top of the game, winning LTA’s Eastbourne International on grass in the summer of 2012 and reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals on two occasions.
However, injuries and illness stopped Paszek in his tracks and as she spoke to 365 sneakers at the ITF World Tour event being hosted by the LTA at Foxhills Country Club in Surrey this week, his story was a painful and inspiring read.
Paszek had sinus and tonsil surgery in 2016 and later suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, which is an inflammation of the nerve that affects the face.
Since then, the Austrian has had more health issues that have forced her to start at the bottom of the tennis ladder once again, but the 31-year-old dares to believe she could have glory days ahead.
“The hardest part is that I missed five years of my career,” Paszek began. “After being away from the WTA Tour for so long, you have no connections or memories of it. You are basically starting your career from scratch. I had no protected classification and had to start qualifying again.
“Mentally it’s tough when you win WTA events and make it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, but I wanted to come back so I had to accept.
“At the beginning of my time out of tennis, I didn’t watch. Seeing other players in tournaments, I really wanted to get hurt, but now I want to go back. I believe I can compete at the highest level again.
“I’m not going to lie, I was very close to giving up, but I remember doing a cycling session a few years ago around the time Wimbledon was in play and the thought that I might never play on grass again made me sad. . It told me there was something for me to chase, that there was still some fire in me.
“Step by step, you try to get there, but it’s hard. You have to get back to the traveling part, being in hotels every week and that takes a lot of you. So it’s a question of whether your body can handle the demands of touring.
“Now, mentally, I’m feeling very refreshed and hungry for more. Let’s see where the journey takes me.
“The goal is to get back to where I was. I’ve achieved a lot in my career and the goal is to get back there, but I need to be realistic.”
The tournament at Foxhills is the latest in an expanded calendar of professional-level International ITF World Tennis Tour events being hosted by the LTA in Great Britain this year, with the number of events more than doubling from seven men’s events and eight women’s events in 2019 to 16 for men and 16 for women in 2022. This is in addition to existing grass season play opportunities.
The aim of the improved LTA performance competition calendar is to provide more opportunities for players to regularly compete at a higher level and make progressive rank gains in the formative stages of their careers, something that has already paid dividends for British players in the first half of the year. of this year. The expanded calendar means there will be over 40 weeks of international leaderboard points or opportunities to win cash prizes in Britain this year.
The results have already paid off for local players, with Britain’s Sonay Kartal winning four such tournaments in 2022 and seeing their rating soar from 880 at the start of the year to nearly 200 now as a result.
These tournaments are also offering established players like Paszek the chance to restart their careers and she hopes this could be the start of her renaissance.
“Having these extra tournaments in Britain is very useful for the players,” he added. “We have players here at Foxhills who are coming in from college and getting a chance to play in this event. In addition, we have many experienced players and the organization of the event is very professional.
“Having a lot of events in the country you are from is very helpful for local players and the LTA is doing a great job of organizing these events with the ITF.
“The first objective is to get back to the WTA Tour events and once I get there I will have a better chance of assessing where my game is. For me, I believe in my game, there are still a lot of players from the beginning of my career and I want to see how far I can go again.
“When I look at women’s football now, it has never been as open as it is now. There are different winners each week, different Grand Slam winners in each tournament. There have been some amazing stories like Emma Raducanu winning the US Open. Dreams can come true. It gives you a lot of motivation to see something like this and reminds you that anything is possible.”
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