Without a Trace: Four WTA Players Who ‘Disappeared’ from Tour

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Over the past two years, we have seen many comebacks from players after long breaks. We’ve witnessed the successful returns of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka from pregnancy, and also Maria Sharapova after being suspended. These players have rapidly rose up the rankings and are almost at their best. However, there have been many other players who have never managed to return to tour after injury breaks and have essentially disappeared from fans’ minds. Moreover, many players have been near the top of the women’s game, before slowly falling in the rankings, into the abyss.

Aravane Rezai

Having won two gold medals at the Women’s Islamic Games for Iran, Rezai debuted for France in 2006. It was that year that she made her WTA breakthrough. In her very first Grand Slam main draw tournament, she made the third round of the French Open and later reached the fourth round in New York. This allowed her to break into the top 50, improving her ranking by 140 places along the way. In 2007, she made a name for herself by causing some upsets. She had a brilliant week in Istanbul by defeating Venus Williams and Sharapova on route to the final.

It was in 2009 and 2010 that she started to make the most improvement. After winning her first ever title in Strasbourg, she once again made the third round in Paris. In Montreal, she achieved the biggest win of her career by beating the world number one Safina in three sets. She then won the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions, boosting her ranking to a new high of World #26 at the end of 2009. 2010 was her best year, as she won the Madrid Open. On her way to the title, she defeated Henin, Petkovic, Jankovic, Safarova and Venus Williams to win the biggest title of her career. She then won the Swedish Open and reached her career high of World #15.

Things started to turn downhill, as her only notable win in 2011 was against Jelena Jankovic. After a very poor run, she took a break from tour and returned in Dallas, where she reached the final. From 2012 to 2014, her ranking dropped so dramatically that she had to play in qualifying events and many ITF tournaments. She took a break from tennis for a year. In 2015, she returned in the French Open qualifying, losing in the first round. She played her last match in Poitiers in 2017 on the ITF circuit.

Today, she is insistent on returning to the tour. In a 2016 interview, she stated that she was hoping to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Despite this, she explained that she is focusing on a slow build up back to the tour. Though it looked like she was gone, there is a small chance of seeing her around in the years to come.
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Jamie Hampton

The German-born American had her breakout year in 2012. She reached the fourth round of Indian Wells by beating Jankovic, and ended the year at #71. The now 28-year-old then raced up the rankings in 2013. She made the semifinals of Auckland, the third round at the Australian Open, and took Azarenka to three sets there. Other highlights included the fourth round at the French Open and her first WTA final in Eastbourne. During the year, she reached her highest career ranking of #24.

Her one and only result of 2014 was a semifinal in Auckland once again. She was due to face Venus Williams in the semifinals but ultimately withdrew due to a hip injury. This inury triggered six surgeries over the next year and a half. She had originally planned to play in April 2015 but decided she wasn’t ready. Her last known interview was in late 2015, where she said she would keep trying to come back and said it wasn’t over. However, nothing has been heard of her since and it appears as if we will ever see her face on tour again.
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Jelena Jankovic

Jankovic is one of those players who don’t need an introduction. She debuted in the top 100 in 2003 and rapidly rose up the rankings. She won her very first title in 2004 and was already ranked #12 in 2006. The next year, she made the top three and in 2007 reached the New York final and won three tournaments in a row to become world number one. There are almost too many successes to list, as the Serbian was near the top of the women’s game for around a decade.

More recently, however, Jankovic was struggling with form. Starting in 2016, she was plagued by injuries; she withdrew in Miami and Charleston and the shoulder injury affected her results throughout the clay season. Her highlights of the season were reasonably average results, with a fourth round appearance at Indian Wells and two semifinals at international level tournaments. 2017 was an even worse year for her, with her only highlight being the third round in Melbourne. She led 6-1 5-1 in the second round of Indian Wells against Venus and lost despite having match points, and also squandered her match against Shvedova in Miami. Her only other result of the year was at the US Open, where she lost to Petra Kvitova.

Since then, Jankovic hasn’t played any tournaments. She had back surgery in October 2017 and eye surgery in May this year, which has delayed any sort of comeback. Recently, she has stated that she will decide soon if she wants to retire. She wants to move forward and will potentially start to look at running a business. The Serbian has been a fan favorite for many years, but it sadly looks as if she won’t be returning.
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Laura Robson

Robson was a player who almost everyone saw as a star of the future. She made her WTA tour debut in 2008, courtesy to a wildcard and also played at Wimbledon the following year. 2010 and 2011 were injury plagued seasons for her, but she managed to breakthrough in 2012 to finish the year at #53. She also won a silver medal at the Olympics with Andy Murray and beat Clijsters and Na to reach the fourth round in New York. The success continued the next year, as she made the fourth round at Wimbledon and entered the top thirty.

However, Robson was not able to compete in 2014. She participated in Hobart and Melbourne, before having to have a wrist surgery. This kept her out of playing for a year and a half. She returned at Wimbledon and played ITF tournaments for the rest of the year. Since then, she has only played in a few grand slams but lost easily in all of her matches.

Robson has played a few doubles tournaments this year but has barely competed in any singles matches. She has revealed that she will only compete in doubles matches for a while, and will return in singles when she feels ready.

Many tennis fans have highlighted how inconsistent the WTA tour has been recently, but it’s clear from these players that this has been happening for a long time. Many players have burnt bright, but not for long enough. Though it seems as if the players mentioned will disappear completely soon, we have to hope that they can start again to overcome their woes.
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