Nuria Llagostera Vives: Doubles Specialist
Published April 18, 2012 12:00
MIAMI, FL, USA - There's a new, happier aura around Nuria Llagostera Vives these days, but it may not have to do with what's happening on the court exactly, more what's not happening on the court - after many successful years on the tour that brought her two titles and a career-high ranking of No.35, she has closed the chapter on singles, now playing exclusively in doubles.
Llagostera Vives played her first WTA events in 2000 and after a few years really started building momentum, peaking in 2005, that year highlighted by an eight-match winning streak that won her the Rabat title and took her to the second week of the French Open (she hit that career-high of No.35 after that). But a freak right wrist injury in Miami the next year severed all that momentum.
"I broke my wrist in that match in Miami and had to retire, and then I couldn't touch a racquet for a whole year," Llagostera Vives said. "I lost some feeling and some movement in my arm, so when I did start playing tennis again there was no feeling in my hand. It was the worst. It was very disappointing.
"I never got back to the Top 50 after that, and I was never sure if it was because of the surgery or that my mind didn't work the same as it used to. But I always had to look forward. Some of my doctors said I may never play again, so I'm happy I recovered and have been able to play for many years since then.
"And hopefully I will play many more."
Llagostera Vives returned to the tour in 2007 and after falling as low as No.686 to due to her inactivity, she ended up finishing the year No.147, and then continued that second coming in 2008, winning her second WTA title in Bogotá. That year she also won the Acapuco doubles title with María José Martínez Sánchez - a partnership that would shine in 2009 with seven titles (including the WTA Championships) and a ninth WTA doubles title together in 2010.
"My best memories in singles were the two tournaments I won, getting to the fourth round at Roland Garros, and also being part of the Spanish team in Fed Cup when we got to the finals in 2008. I have very good memories from the semifinals against China. Also going to the Olympics was a great memory.
"But it was starting to become difficult for me. I was doing much better in doubles than I was in singles. For singles I would have to play many qualies at the big tournaments and it was tough to qualify for main draws, and physically and mentally it was becoming hard for me to keep up and keep playing.
"Finally I realized I needed a change."
Llagostera Vives started thinking of wrapping up her singles career more seriously in 2011, and during a qualifying match in Moscow made the call.
"Going into the match I wasn't seriously thinking about quitting, but when I was playing the match, suddenly I felt it was the last one," she remembered. "I still thought it was the end of the season and let's see what happens in 2012 - let's see if I miss singles. But then I didn't miss it. So that's it.
"Yes I was tired physically and mentally, but the main issue was I wasn't enjoying it anymore. And if you want to do well, you have to enjoy it."
A former Top 5 doubles player who is still going strong in the Top 20 - she already has one title this year, at the Premier event in Brisbane with fellow Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja - Llagostera Vives plans on playing as long as she's enjoying it. And she's already liking the new lifestyle.
"Obviously I don't have to practice as much now - I practice about half the time I used to. That gives me more spare time so I can go shopping or sightseeing, which is one of the things I always wanted to do more of when travelling.
"I have more time for myself now, which makes me enjoy all this even more."