Vera Zvonareva's second round outing in Pattaya City last week wouldn't normally be cause for celebration for her, but considering what she has had to overcome recently, it was a sign of progress.
Illness and a right shoulder injury that eventually required surgery kept two-time Grand Slam runner-up and former World No.2 Zvonareva out of action after the 2012 Olympics until the start of this year. Her comeback started slowly, with first round losses at Shenzhen and the Australian Open. But then in Pattaya City, she got her first win in a year and a half in her opener before falling to eventual champion and fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the second round.
"Overall it went better than the Australian Open," Zvonareva said. "I feel like I'm improving a little bit every day. I wish I could make bigger strides, but I have to keep working hard to be able to play the level of tennis that I want to play.
"Of course it is frustrating, but after you haven't competed for a year and a half and have surgery, it's a difficult challenge to come back. I knew it was going to be difficult."
Zvonareva talked about what motivated her to return to the WTA after having so many health issues.
"I feel like I did not fulfill my potential," Zvonareva said. "Whatever I achieved, I thought I could have achieved even more. I'd rather choose to retire than the injury forcing me to retire. Also, it's a challenge and I want to know what it takes to come back from an injury like that, where you're doubting if you'll ever be able to play tennis again.
"Shoulder surgery for a tennis player is quite a dangerous thing. There are a lot of players who weren't able to come back and ever play tennis again, so for me it was a challenge to see what it takes to come back. I have energy and a desire to work, and tennis had given me so much in my life, so I just wanted to give it a try."
Zvonareva said she will have to be careful not to push herself too much for fear of an injury recurrence.
"I'll just have to be smart about it," Zvonareva said. "I'll probably play a limited schedule the first half of the year. It's a lot of load on my shoulder to play competitive matches. It's still not perfect. It will stay like that for quite a while, so I just have to take it easy and not rush. If I do too much, I can reinjure it, and my career will probably be over."