NEW HAVEN, CT, USA - While competing at the New Haven Open at Yale, longtime WTA doubles star Nuria Llagostera Vives took some time out to discuss her ongoing recovery from left wrist surgery, among other subjects.
"It started around two or three years ago," Llagostera Vives said. "I had pain in my left wrist and went to the doctor. I had a cyst, which they said was difficult to remove, so I got cortisone injections and kept playing. It kept hurting for two or three years, but as soon as I'd get a cortisone injection, I'd go half a year or even eight or nine months with no pain. But then it would always come back."
Llagostera Vives said eventually the cortisone injections no longer alleviated her pain, so she visited a doctor in Miami in March.
"The cyst was an issue, and also my bone and the tendons around it were damaged," Llagostera Vives said. "So I needed surgery or I wouldn't be able to play. They took off a joint from my wrist. I have one joint left, so I lost a little bit of movement."
Llagostera Vives described the slow recuperation process that caused her to be out of action almost five months after Indian Wells.
"I did recovery in Spain with my physio, between three and four hours every day for four months," Llagostera Vives said. "I had so much pain I could only hit with soft balls from the service line for a couple minutes at a time. It was really tough."
Llagostera Vives returned to action in Carlsbad last month, but is still not pain-free.
"I'm not 100% yet," Llagostera Vives said. "Wrist surgery is not easy. It is very difficult to heal. My doctor said that it would take a while, but he said there is no danger from playing.
"It hurts a little bit less each time, so that's a good sign, and it's much less pain than before the surgery. Basically the doctor says I need to play. When I play, it gets stronger. Because it's about gripping the racquet. I need to grip the racquet and play."
Llagostera Vives has certainly done that, playing every week since Carlsbad with Liezel Huber, including this week in New Haven where she had the best result of her comeback - a semifinal outing.
"She got in touch with me while I was recovering and asked me if I wanted to join her," Llagostera Vives said of Huber. "I thought it was a great idea. She's one of the best doubles players ever. We're going to play the US Open together."
Llagostera Vives is unsure of her plans after the US Open, but does have one ambition in mind.
"My goal is to be able to play pain-free," Llagostera Vives said.
"I talked to her the next day," Llagostera Vives said. "I said, 'Marion, what's happening?' She said she woke up so happy the next day that she knew she made the right decision. Maybe she thought she couldn't do any better than what she did. She won a Grand Slam. Everyone knows she has been one of the hardest workers on the tour, so many hours, very tough practices. I guess she was exhausted.
"I understood. You have to be able to enjoy playing tennis. It's a job, but you have to enjoy it. Maybe she wasn't enjoying it that much. If you're not enjoying it, you're not able to play. She said there are other things in life, and I agree."