Tennis is often a confusing place. This week, Andrea Petkovic is supposed to be celebrating her ceremonious return to the top-10 for the first time in almost three years, and her title victory in Antwerp last Sunday.
Instead, Petkovic spent Tuesday throwing her racquet in frustration as she lost not one but two matches in singles and doubles in Dubai.
As she walked off the court Tuesday night following her doubles defeat alongside Mandy Minella, exhausted and ready to collapse into bed, Petkovic still had enough in her to philosophize over her journey back into the top-10.
After making three grand slam quarter-finals in 2011 to enter the top-10 for the first time, the charismatic German was plagued with injuries and she saw her ranking plummet to as low as 465.
But Petkovic’s story is not just about a comeback from injury. In her eyes, it is a coming of age tale that saw her question everything before recapturing her will to fight back.
“It probably means more to me than to other people. Not even because of the number just for me it’s more a symbol of how I came back,” Petkovic told me of her top-10 return.
“Because when I was top-10 by the end of 2011 I had so many hopes and dreams for 2012. And then they sort of got crushed by my injuries.
“At first I blamed everybody else and I blamed destiny and god and whoever and it took me a long time to put it behind me and move forward.
“I was still concerned with questions ‘why did it happen to me and so on’. And so once I came through this questioning and just put it behind me and moved forward, I had the energy to start a comeback again.
“So being back in the top-10, for me it’s not about being 10 or nine or 11 or 12, it’s a symbol of my journey I’ve had behind me. Now that I’ve reached it, maybe that’s why also my energy was really low today.”
Indeed the 27-year-old looked completely drained in both her matches yesterday. She played in Australia, Germany, and Belgium in the last three weeks and after picking up her trophy in Belgium on Sunday, she arrived in Dubai on Monday with less than a day to prepare for her opener, which she lost to Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas 7-5, 6-3. She paid credit to her opponent but said her legs felt like “gummy balls” and that she couldn’t look through her eyes.
“I was also furious. When you’re tired you’re just angry and I couldn’t control myself. It was a horrible day for me but it’s okay,” she admits.
Moving forward, Petkovic is keen on not falling into old patterns.
“I think it also comes with experience and with age. It was just important for me to learn to listen to my body. When it’s too much, when it’s just muscle pain, when it’s maybe an injury, when I need to take care of things. I learnt to schedule better, to plan some breaks and I’m just practicing smarter,” she says.
“I’m not practicing as much anymore but with more quality. And I know the things that work for me and the things that help me to get in a good feeling pretty fast. I changed my nutrition. So there are a lot of factors but everything together just makes me a much healthier player.”
Asked whether she would go to the players’ party to perhaps celebrate her recent accomplishments and forget about her tough day on court, Petkovic said: “I would love to but I’m so tired I can’t go. I’m not sure I can even take a shower now. I think I’m just going to drop into my bed and hope to die for one night.”