Former teenaged sensation and Top 20 player Ana Konjuh opened up on a years-long battle with elbow injuries at Behind the Racquet.
WTA Staff
June 8, 2019

At a time on the WTA when teenagers are thriving, a former teen queen is looking to give professional tennis once more shot.

Former World No.20 Ana Konjuh, who has been sidelined for much of the past two years, is the latest WTA player to share her story on the Instagram account "Behind the Racquet."

The initiative, started by American ATP player Noah Rubin, aims to offer a unique look at the perspecitve of touring tennis players

Among those to share their story on the account this year are former WTA Newcomer of the Year Catherine Bellis, who has missed over a year of action due to a series of arm injuries; Canadian sensation Bianca Andreescu, who opened up on her own shoulder injury after winning Indian Wells; and rising British player Katie Swan, who used her platform to advocate for the importance of mental health in athletes.

Read more: 'Tennis is everything to me' - Bellis opens up on injury

Konjuh was the 2013 junior Australian Open and US Open champion, and at age 17, won the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham in 2015 - becoming the youngest player to win a WTA title since 2006 at that time.

She later reached the US Open quarterfinals in 2016, becoming the youngest US Open quarterfinalist in a decade, and also the first Croatian female Slam quarterfinalist since Karolina Sprem at Wimbledon in 2004.

In the post, the 21-year-old Croat detailed her struggles with injuries from an early age, and despite them, opened up about how the tennis court proved to be her oasis when her sister fell comatose with a rare brain disease

"Ever since I was 12, I remember playing tennis with some kind of pain in my elbow," Konjuh wrote.

"In order to continue my career, I was taking painkillers until one doctor suggested surgery. After finishing a successful junior career at 16, I had to put my professional career on hold for rehab. It actually went well and I was pain free for three-and-a-half years. Other injuries were holding me back in the meantime, such as a herniated disc in my back and a twisted ankle. 

"During this difficult time [with her sister's illness], tennis kept me going...but little did I know, the problems with my elbow were just starting. I was at a career high of No.20 in the world in 2017 and maybe things were going too well."




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“Ever since I was 12 I remember playing tennis with some kind of pain in my elbow. In order to continue my career I was taking painkillers until one doctor suggested surgery. After finishing a successful junior career at 16, I had to put my professional career on hold for rehab. It actually went well and I was pain free for 3.5 years. Other injuries were holding me back in the meantime, such as a herniated disc in my back and a twisted ankle. These were nowhere near the problems my sister faced. She had some kind of brain inflammation where they weren’t sure if she would pull through, but with a miracle she did. During this difficult time tennis kept me going. Little did I know the problems with my elbow were just starting. I was at a career high of 20 in the world in 2017 and maybe things were going too well. I woke up one morning during a tournament in Canada and couldn’t extend my right arm. After returning home, I found out I needed another surgery where they would shave the bone down and clean the joint. My positivity kept me going through rehab and after a long preseason I was ready to play. This time it only took one match to feel pain. I was forced to rest for six weeks after finding three stress reactions. I was not going to settle any longer and searched for the best doctor I could and ended up in the US. There was still uncertainty and I woke up after my third surgery to find out that they found nothing major and it was just another cleaning. Months of hard work got me back to where I was ready to start the clay and grass season in 2018. Only four matches in it was back. I took six months off from tennis to give it maximum time to recover. Now in 2019, I am trying every possible racquet, string and technique. I felt helpless that this sport, to which I dedicated my life to, is giving me all these problems. If I didn’t love hitting this yellow ball so much I would’ve quit a long time ago but I told myself give yourself one more chance. My fourth and final surgery, 2.5 hours long, ulnar ligament reconstruction. I have about 70% chance of returning but I am going for it. I have this goal set in my mind and I'm not accepting any other outcome.”

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Since reaching her greatest heights on tour, Konjuh underwent three surgeries on her right elbow. The first came in 2014, the second followed in September of 2017, and the third came last year.

She competed in just four tournaments in 2018, before the pain returned. After a six-month break, and after just three matches this season, she needed a fourth operation to reconstruct the ulnar ligament.

"Now in 2019, I am trying every possible racquet, string and technique. I felt helpless that this sport, to which I dedicated my life to, is giving me all these problems," she said.

"If I didn’t love hitting this yellow ball so much, I would’ve quit a long time ago but I told myself give yourself one more chance.

"I have about 70 percent chance of returning, but I am going for it. I have this goal set in my mind and I'm not accepting any other outcome.”

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