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40 LOVE Icons: Anna Chakvetadze

Eight-time WTA champion, US Open semifinalist, former World No.5 - Anna Chakvetadze had a fantastic run, and her retirement at age 26 earlier this fall was certainly too soon of a goodbye.

Published December 05, 2013 12:03

40 LOVE Icons: Anna Chakvetadze
Anna Chakvetadze

MOSCOW, Russia - With her countrywomen marching forward alongside her, Anna Chakvetadze was one of the brightest new stars of women's tennis in the mid-to-late 2000s, getting up to No.5 in 2007 - but from that peak she suffered setback after setback, and this year she decided to march no more.

But let's rewind back to the beginning first - and what a beginning it was. For many the road to the top is step by step, but Chakvetadze burst into the limelight with one huge leap as a No.175-ranked qualifier at the 2004 US Open, stunning then-World No.3 Anastasia Myskina in the second round. It was the 17-year-old Chakvetadze's third WTA main draw match - only three players have scored Top 10 wins faster than the Russian (Andrea Leand, Julie Coin and Garbiñe Muguruza in their second).

Chakvetadze would finish 2004 at No.84, 2005 at No.33 and - shortly after a 10-match fall win streak that brought her the first two WTA titles of her career at Guangzhou and Moscow - 2006 at No.13.

The Russian hit the biggest of big times in 2007. Four titles - Hobart, 's-Hertogenbosch, Cincinnati and Stanford. Three trips to the business end of Grand Slams - the quarterfinals of the Australian and French Opens and the semifinals of the US Open. Two more Top 3 wins - both against a No.3-ranked Jelena Jankovic, in the 's-Hertogenbosch final and in the round robin of the WTA Championships.

And then, of course, her own career-high ranking of No.5, which she achieved after that semifinal run in New York - one of only 66 women in the 38-year-old history of WTA Rankings to reach the Top 5.

But the setbacks started coming at her as quickly as her rise - first the tragic home invasion during the 2007 off-season that clearly took a toll on her psychologically, then an inner ear infection that took her out most of 2011, and then chronic back problems that plagued her throughout the 2012 season.

On September 24, 2013, about a year after playing her last event at Tashkent in September 2012 - she had to retire during the doubles final due to her back - Chakvetadze retired from professional tennis.

"I have a chronic back injury, so I made the decision to stop and start a new life," Chakvetadze told Russia's Sport Express Daily. "Of course, this was a difficult decision to make. I thought hard about it but now it's finally made. I understood that the point of making a return to tennis was behind me.

"I no longer see myself in professional tennis so I am ready to say that my career is over.

The classy Chakvetadze was one of only eight Russian women ever to break the Top 5 in the WTA Rankings, joining former No.1s Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina, former No.2s Anastasia Myskina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva and former No.3s Nadia Petrova and Elena Dementieva.

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