Tatiana Golovin: Finally Finding Her Way Again
Published November 27, 2011 12:00
PARIS, France - It couldn't have come at a worse time - she had just put together a breakthrough 2007 season and was within two spots of the Top 10 when a chronic back injury put her tennis career on complete pause mode. But while Tatiana Golovin hasn't been able to keep all the ferocious forehands coming, she has certainly been shining in her newfound pursuits.
Golovin burst into prominence on the WTA very early, her first big result being a run to the fourth round of the 2004 Australian Open - she turned 16 that fortnight. Already showing strong nerves and an impressive all-court game - highlighted by a particularly lethal forehand - everyone knew there were big things coming. And the Russian-born Frenchwoman didn't disappoint.
From 2004 to 2007, Golovin would capture two WTA titles, reach another five finals, even win a Grand Slam title, in mixed doubles at the 2004 French Open (with countryman Richard Gasquet). She had a knack for beating Top 10 players - she scored 13 victories over the elite in those four years (six in 2007 alone). She finished 2007 at No.13 in the world, peaking at No.12 early in 2008.
But just as she about to crack the Top 10 herself, it all stopped.
"I was at the top of my game," the 23-year-old said. "In 2007 I had those two finals in Stuttgart and Zürich in the fall, I was beating top players, and I almost finished the year in the Top 10. I was really focused in the off-season to prepare for Australia. I was enjoying myself and moving towards my potential.
"At the time I never thought I would stop six months later. It took a long time to figure out what was wrong, but they found it was a chronic back inflammation, and there's no treatment. The last tournament I went to was the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, but I was too unsure about my back and couldn't play.
"Mentally it was very tough. It's a big shock when something so important in your life goes away. It took me a whole year to realize I couldn't play anymore. I took time off to go away from everything and try to find myself again."
Like she had done so many times on the court though, Golovin regrouped. And the versatility she once showed in tennis would now help her succeed in a variety of pursuits, including commentary for France Television and Orange Television, also writing a column in Sport & Style Magazine for L'Equipe.
"This year I was working for broadcasting. It's a great opportunity to be at the French Open - it's a good boost for me, good exposure. I've also had a chance to do other things, like I have a page in L'Equipe where I get to interview athletes and celebrities and famous people, like Hugh Jackman and Yannick Noah.
"I've been doing things I couldn't do on the tour. I've been spending more time with my family, which I couldn't do with all the travelling. I have a house in the south of France, I have my dog there. I can hang out with friends more. I have more time to myself. I love learning - I went back to school last year, and next year I'm going back again. I'm taking courses in media and politics, a nice background for when I'm older and want to get involved in more areas.
"It took me a year or two to start living again. Leaving tennis left a big hole in my life - it was a really big shock for me. But I feel I'm finally finding my way again."
Golovin is weighing her options for the future. "It has been hard for me to set goals. I'm still so young at 23 - most people my age are just getting out of school and don't know what they want yet. Also, I've already made a career in tennis and financially don't really need to work every day. But I really do love to work - it makes you wake up in the morning and aspire to achieve something that day. Right now I'm really enjoying my work on TV and as a journalist, but right now I don't really know exactly what I want to do in the future."
Golovin's preferred career of choice is obvious, however. "When you're born into the tennis world, nothing can compare to that," she said. "You won't get the same feelings and emotions you get when you play in front of a crowd, win a big match, win a tournament, see all your fans, just going to practice in the morning... actually the thing I miss most is just going out on the court and practicing hard and sweating, and going home so tired from the workout.
"I can't get that at all now. It's really difficult to just go for a run."
Is there any chance of a comeback to the courts sometime in the future? "I don't like to say never, and I'm still only 23, but I don't think I will be able to play again. At least I don't think I'll be able to play professionally again."
For more on Golovin, follow her on Twitter at @misstati13...