ROME -- Former World No.2 Anett Kontaveit notched her first win since a two-month injury break, defeating Alycia Parks 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. The Estonian has been hampered by a degenerative back injury since last fall and stepped away in early February to focus on addressing the issue.
"I've done exercises for months to keep it together because since October, it started falling apart quickly," Kontaveit told WTA Insider. "I'm happy it held together today. The match was only an hour so that definitely helps."
Now ranked No.82, Kontaveit was still sitting at a career-high No.2 as recently as the US Open a season ago, where she took a second-round loss to Serena Williams. Kontaveit bounced back quickly, making the final of her hometown event in Tallinn in her next event. But her back issue grew exceedingly worse. She has not won back-to-back matches on the Hologic WTA Tour since that run on home soil.
After retiring to Shelby Rogers in the Round of 16 in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, Kontaveit said enough is enough.
"I was doing exercises for months, boring stuff, a lot of core," Kontaveit said. "So now I'm especially excited to compete and do something fun again.
"The last month I was training in Spain. I played Billie Jean King Cup in Portugal and there I felt the back a little bit. It was the first test. I had a few matches in a row, and I started to feel it, which was a bit worrying.
"It's tough to find the balance between pushing yourself and being worried about hurting your back again and holding back. Then you go to a tournament and you don't feel like you've trained enough or trained intense enough. That's what happened in Madrid.
"It was 2-all against Karolina [Muchova] and I felt physically fatigued. So I went back to Marbella after that and trained really hard, pushed myself really hard. I was trying not to hold myself back because of the back.
"So far so good. I haven't felt the back."
Just two years ago, Kontaveit finished her breakthrough 2021 campaign as the tour's leader in wins. She captured four titles that season and qualified for her first WTA Finals, where she advanced to the championship match. Through it all, she set new benchmarks for Estonian tennis, rising to No.2 the following season.
Given the nature of her issue, Kontaveit says she's not sure what the future holds, but she's preaching patience as she plots her way back.
"I haven't thought about it that dramatically yet," she said. "But it's definitely not easy playing when something is bothering you constantly. So I hope these exercises keep it together for a longer time and we see how it goes. I haven't made any big decisions."
"I don't want to jump up and down from joy and say everything is fine. It's just one match, I want to see how it holds up over a few matches."
Kontaveit faces 16th seed Liudmila Samsonova in the second round.