Tamira Paszek admits she feared her days at the top were over, but her passion to return confirms she is not ready to give up yet.
The Austrian won almost $2.5million when she broke through at the top of the game, winning the Eastbourne International tournament on grass during the summer of 2012, and making it through to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon on two occasions.
Yet, injury and illness stopped Paszek in her tracks, and after several years out, she is trying to make a remarkable return.
Paszek had sinus and tonsil surgery in 2016 and then suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve inflammation affecting the face.
Since then, she has had further health issues that have forced her to start from the bottom of the tennis ladder once more, but the 31-year-old is daring to believe she could once again have glory days ahead of her.
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“The toughest part is that I lost five years of my career,” began Paszek. “After so long away from the WTA Tour, you have no connections or memories from it. You are basically starting your career from scratch. I had no protected ranking and had to start in qualifying all over again.”
“Mentally it is tough when you have won WTA events and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but I wanted to come back so I had to accept it.”
“At the start of my time out of tennis, I didn’t watch it. Seeing players playing in the tournaments that I wanted to be playing in, hurt too much, but now I want to come back. I believe I can compete at the highest level again.”
Walking away from tennis would have been the easy option for Paszek, but this champion is not ready to give up on her dream just yet.
“I’m not going to lie, I was very close to quitting, but I remember doing a bike session a couple of years ago at the time when Wimbledon was on, and the thought that I would never play on the grass courts again made me sad. That told me there was something left for me to chase, that there was still some fire in me,” she added.
“Step by step, you try and get there, but it is hard. You have to get back into the travelling part, being in hotels every week, and it takes a lot out of you. Then it is a question of seeing if your body will stand up to the demands of playing on tour.”
“Now, mentally, I’m feeling really fresh and hungry for more. Let’s see where the journey takes me. The goal is to get back to where I was. I have already achieved so much in my career and the aim is to get back there, but I need to be realistic.”
Paszek played at the ITF’s W60 event in Glasgow last week, losing in the second round against Britain’s Katie Boulter in a high-quality match.
Now she is eager to head into 2023 with her sights set on a return to the big stage as she adds: “The first target is to get back into WTA Tour events and once I get there, I will have a better chance to assess where my game is at. For me, I believe in my game, there are a lot of players still playing from my early career and I want to see how far I can go again.”
“When I look at the women’s game right now, it has never been more open than it is now. There are different winners every week, different Grand Slam winners in every tournament. There have been some amazing stories, like Emma Raducanu winning the US Open. Dreams can come true. It gives you a lot of motivation to see something like that, and it reminds you anything is possible.”