The 30-year-old Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu has had a remarkable rise into the WTA Top 25 this season, having never cracked the Top 100 until 2017.
Buzarnescu had a lot of injuries while younger and stopped playing in 2013 due to her bad shoulder and also a couple of knee injuries, which required two surgeries. She went back to school and got a doctorate at the Academia Naţionala de Educaţie Fizică şi Sport Bucharest in 2016.
Since coming back, she has been on a roll, reaching the Top 100 in October, and finishing the year No. 59 in the rankings. Now she has climbed even higher with finals in Hobart and Prague, scoring wins against three Top 10 players.
But she wants even more, though. This week, Buzarnescu is the second-seeded player and a local favorite at the BRD Bucharest Open, and says she is feeling fiery like other Romanian players.
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"I know we're hard on ourselves and I'm hard on myself as well, and I'm pushing myself a lot. Especially whenever I'm alone in the tournaments, it's so much harder,” Buzarnescu said during the grass-court season. “Sometimes I feel like I want to leave and go home or go somewhere because it's really tough. In the WTA level, it's not really so easy to communicate with each other because they all have their team, which is amazing and is really good for every player, especially for the top ones. But then, when I'm playing so many tournaments, of course sometimes it's tough and sometimes I want to break. But I'm pushing myself a lot."
Buzarnescu plays a lot, having competed in 32 events in the previous 12 months, but says that now playing big WTA events means good hotels and better food.
But unlike when she first came back, there is now also a little more pressure.
“I knew last year when I came back and started to win tournaments, I knew that this year you would need to defend all the points. But I really tried my best not to think of this which was working until now," she said. "If I'm healthy and I'm playing good then, I'm defending the points and I can stay on these rankings. Of course my goal would be to reach Top 10 and stay there, but I would be happy to play Top 20 and play all major tournaments again.
"I just want to enjoy every moment as much as possible because I'm not 20 years old, I'm 30. Let's say I don't know how many years I can still play tennis.”
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