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Kanepi quielty forced out of top sports by sickness

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PHOTO: Scanpix

For Estonia's long-term leading tennis player Kaia Kanepi, top level competing is nearing its end. In a Facebook post yesterday, she announced participation at a WTA tournament in Stuttgart after a lengthy pause while not setting big goals. Problems with health are not allowing Ms Kanepi (30) to apply maximum effort.

«The pause has been long and I am happy to test myself at a tournament again,» wrote Ms Kanepi, who is starting off from qualifications. She added that having trained meagrely, she is unaware of the level she would be able to play.

Therefore, she has compiled no tournaments calendar for the year and will go as the health allows.

For various illnesses, Ms Kanepi has not done much competing lately, Once very near to the absolute top ranking 15th in WTA, she has slid all the way to 182nd.

Understandably, the position is no longer sufficient to get straight to top tournaments – hence the qualifications. To make it back into the elite, maximal efforts would have to be applied at training sessions and games.

«I’ll take one tournament at a time and try to enjoy playing,» wrote Ms Kanepi. «We’ll see as we go how my health and emotional condition will make it, and if I remain therewith satisfied. To totally quit I would rather not as yet. For the time being, I just plan to enjoy the game and we’ll see if I play for my own pleasure while I live, or not.»

Even so, playing some select tournaments may turn into a farewell tour for Ms Kanepi, just the way it has been for many a top level tennis player before while on way out. Still, in her notice, Ms Kanepi avoids talking about quitting and at least in words remains optimistic.

These past 1.5 years, Ms Kanepi has been forced to pause now and again due to Epstein-Barr virus which in turn has caused mononucleosis, a plague for lots of sportsmen.

«In intense situations the virus also intensifies,» admitted Ms Kanepi. While virus may heal in weeks for ordinary people, for sportsmen training at heavy loads it is known to have taken a year or even enforced end of career – as was the fate of Robin Söderling of Sweden.

In the Estonia all about medals, the achievements of Ms Kanepi may not sound like much. And yet, five times in Grand Slam quarter finals is no small feat, and prize money has amounted to well over $4m. The trophy shelf at home holds four WTA winner cups.

While still essentially a top sportsman, Ms Kanepi has not taken too serious steps towards the «ordinary» life. According to people well advised with tennis, a layer like her would have no difficulty getting a job as coach. Well, time will tell.

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Kaia Kanepi

  • Born June 10th 1985
  • Height 181 cm
  • Became professional in 2000
  • Wins: 4 WTA tournaments, 9 ITF tournaments
  • Highest WTA ranking 15th
  • Current WTA ranking 182nd
  • Top achievements: five times in Grand Slam quarter finals
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