Ex-tennis star Anna Chakvetadze is now a commentator for Grand Slam events and a tennis coach for Russian players but she is more a model of why an athlete must listen to their body and should not allow themselves to indulge in a "follow the pack" mentality. Anna Chakvetadze was the number 5 ranked player in 2007 at the age of twenty when tragedy struck her family in Russia. They were robbed while relaxing at their home at the end of the season in a targeted robbery. After the robbery, they never moved from Russia but instead Anna Chakvetadze returned to training instead of giving her 20 year old body a break having just helped Russia win the Federation Cup. In the course of pushing her body without giving herself a proper rest period she injured her back and she never was able to return to her previous level of play.
Anna Chakvetadze returned to play quickly because that is what most of the other players did but who were the players who did not? The Williams' sisters and Maria Sharapova. Who are still playing at the top level today. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. This is not a coincidence.
Tennis players do not reach their peak at 20 years old. For years the Williams' sisters were criticized for skipping tournament events but they understood or more accurately, their father understood that they were not machines and their bodies needed time to recover after tournaments, especially when they were in their early twenties. They missed out on appearance fees from other tournaments but whenever they arrived for a tournament whether it was a small tournament or a Grand Slam tournament they were ready to play and win.
If someone had been able to counsel Anna Chakvetadze on the importance of looking long-term at her career they could have possibly saved what was a very promising tennis career. As for staying in Russia, in hindsight maybe Anna Chakvetadze should have followed the lead of her compatriot Maria Sharapova and mover herself and her family to Florida. Those individuals who robbed her have never been found but they would be unlikely to consider such action in the United States.
Anna Chakvetadze can now mentor the younger Russian players and help them pursue the heights that she reached in her career and hopefully even greater. But what Anna Chakvetadze represents even more is the importance of tennis players having a strong coach in their corner and the belief in themselves that they do not have to "follow the pack" to be successful in tennis and life.