Having won her battle with a career-threatening shoulder injury, Iveta Melzer's next challenge is earning her place back on tennis' top table.
WTA Staff

Last week in Acapulco, Iveta Melzer made her return to tennis following two years out battling a career-threatening shoulder injury.

Much has changed since the Czech last struck a ball on tour, most noticeably her surname, which she switched from Benesova when she tied the knot with ATP player Jürgen Melzer 18 months ago.

While Melzer's first match back ended in defeat, against last year's US Open feel good story, Victoria Duval, a run to the final alongside compatriot Petra Cetkovska in the doubles ensured there were still plenty of positives in México to build upon.

"I thought it was going to be easier," Melzer said. "Being on tour is like being on a train that's going so fast and when you jump off it's difficult to get back on! Everybody's playing great and it's tough to get back to their level.

"I think I just need a couple of matches to get used to it and get more experience - which sounds weird at my age!"

In her time away, Melzer remained close to the game and despite a few dark moments never lost belief that she would return.

"It was a really long process. I'd seen like 100 doctors and I had an appointment for surgery, but then the doctor I trust the most told me not to do it," she said. "So I decided to do rehab, but then every time I tried to practice again it was still painful. It wasn't until the end of last year that it was pain-free and I realized I could play full-time.

"I always had the hunger to come back. I was travelling with my husband to all the tournaments so I was seeing the girls play on the courts I used to play on and all the memories were flashing back. I was hungry and envious as well, which is what was keeping me going."

With her fitness battle now won, the 31-year-old, who collected two singles and 14 doubles titles before her injury woes, is looking forward to the challenge of returning to the top.

"It's been a really long time away and I'm trying to enjoy being back. I'm healthy again and that's the most important thing right now. It's really hard to compete at this level at the moment and I'm having to go back to basics. It's not easy, but I'm enjoying trying to get back to where I was before the injury."

And things will not get any easier for Melzer, who, thanks to her protected ranking, continues her testing reintroduction to tour life with March's Indian Wells-Miami double header. On Wednesday, she lost her opening round encounter at the first of these, going down 64 62 to Yvonne Meusburger.

"I have eight tournaments with my protected ranking. I'll play Indian Wells and Miami and then after that I have five more tournaments. I have to choose my schedule wisely!"