On Thursday at the All England Club, Anett Kontaveit swung her racquet for the last time on a singles court as a professional tennis player.

Kontaveit, 27, announced last month that she would retire after Wimbledon due to a degenerative back injury. The former World No.2 bowed out in the second round to Marie Bouzkova, losing 6-1, 6-2. Kontaveit remains in the mixed doubles draw with Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori. 

"It was incredible to have Court 18 full of people, so many people cheering for me," Kontaveit said. "Of course, the match didn't go the way I wanted it to, but I was so happy to be able to play in front of so many people, that so many people that love me were able to see me play for the last time - in singles."

In photos: Anett Kontaveit calls it a career

Kontaveit's retirement announcement came as a shock to the Hologic WTA Tour locker room. Ons Jabeur did her best to try and talk Kontaveit out of retirement, but the Estonian made it clear that her decision was not a matter a choice.

"It's really sweet that they're trying [to talk me out of it]," Kontaveit said. "A lot of people tried."

"But, these decisions, because I cannot play without pain pretty much the whole match, it was something that of course I considered for a very long time. But it was a very difficult decision, and once I decide something big like this, I don't usually start doubting it."

Daria Kasatkina counts Kontaveit as one of her best friends on tour.

"Knowing that she's going to finish quite early, considering her age, it's breaking my heart," she said. "But I'm pretty sure Anett, she's gonna be a happy person in life. She got so many interests. She's a very interesting person, and I think she will find her place, for sure."

Kontaveit sat down with wtatennis.com before the tournament to reflect on her journey:

WTA Insider: When did the reality of retirement begin to crystalize for you?

Kontaveit: I don't have an exact moment where it was a clear decision, but I had thought about it a little bit. I just didn't want to talk about it publicly and cause a fuss when I was not sure about something. I went through all sorts of different emotions while this processing was happening.

So, yeah, I had thought about it for a little while. The back has been bothering me since last year, so it was something that I knew at that time that was going to be difficult to manage playing tennis. I felt like I could not give 100 percent every time I was playing, so it was difficult mentally as well, not to be able to do that. 

WTA Insider: Does this feel bittersweet? 

Kontaveit: I'd say now I feel at peace with it, but it was definitely difficult before, especially right before the announcement. It was very hard. I was just sad and upset. It's been my whole life. This is what I've done for most of the 27 years that I've lived. So yeah, I think it was a difficult thing to process. 

But one day I woke up, and I was feeling happy again. I think time sort of helped me come to terms with it. 


WTA Insider: The response from the locker room was overwhelming after you announced Wimbledon would be your final tournament. Did that surprise you?

Kontaveit: Everyone's been really nice and said some really nice and kind words, wishing me luck for the next chapters. It's been very heartwarming and I appreciate that they're all so nice and supportive about it. 

I think I was a pretty social person, and so I'm really glad that there are so many girls who care about me, who I get along with, and who really wish me well. 

"I was very, very sad. I honestly tried to convince her not to, but it didn't work out."

- Ons Jabeur

It has been great to be able to share this kind of journey with Ons and Maria, for example, because we've kind of grown up together. I've known them from juniors and I'm really happy to see them do well. It's been amazing that I've been able to do well too. 

So to play at this high level at the same time, play in finals against each other, it's been really special. 


WTA Insider: You get along with everyone, from the top of the ranking to the lower-ranked players, whether singles or doubles. What has been the secret to maintaining those relationships with your competitors?

Kontaveit: I'm not sure. It is a very competitive environment. It's not easy to make friends here, for sure. 

It's just been a process. I've been on tour for quite a lot of years and have had time to get to know a lot of the girls. Whatever happens on court, I like to leave it on the court and then off the court we can all be friendly and get along. I think that's kind of what I'm trying to do. 

WTA Insider: What surprised you the most about your career?

Kontaveit: I think I had this goal of reaching the Top 10, but at some point, I think I actually didn't believe that I would make it eventually. So I'm very proud of the things that I have achieved and the titles that I have won. 

To even get to the WTA Finals as the first Estonian ever, I think it's a big thing. Coming from a small country, it's a little bit more difficult to dream as big. You're trying to be more realistic because you don't have that many role models in front of you. I have Kaia [Kanepi] and she was Top 20. 

But no one had been Top 10. No one had reached the WTA Finals. So there were a lot of things you don't even dare to dream about. 


WTA Insider: What was the most meaningful moment of your career?

Kontaveit: Tough question. I don't know if I should say the Australian Open quarters or if I should say the WTA Finals. But of course, I think nothing beats winning a tournament, so I'd say winning my first WTA tournament. 

WTA Insider: What does the immediate future hold for you?

Kontaveit: I'm studying psychology at Indiana University, so I'm going to do that. I'll take more classes, so I'll have more to do. Hopefully I'll go on some spontaneous trips. I have to find friends who are not working. It's very difficult. 

But other than that, I don't have big plans. I think I need to learn how to relax a little bit, take some time off and figure out what I want to do. I think studying is a big commitment already, so I'll deal with that for now.

WTA Insider: Are we still going to see you around tennis?

Kontaveit: I think I want to stay connected with tennis. I don't know exactly how I'm going to do it right now, but maybe do something with Estonian tennis and a side of studying, and then we'll see. I'm not promising anything right now. We'll just see what kind of ideas I get. 

But yeah, I think it would be good to use this experience that I've gained from the tour later on in life. 


WTA Insider: What has being a professional tennis player meant to you?

Kontaveit: It's been one of the most difficult things I've ever done and one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. It has been my whole life. 

It's taught me so many things and I'm very, very grateful that I've been able to do this.