WATCH: Donna Vekic's TenniStory

MIAMI—Donna Vekic was still in search of her pre-pandemic peak when we spoke at the Citi Open last summer. She feared she would never find it.

“I don’t know if I’m ever going to move as well as I did before my [knee] surgery,” she admitted, regretting her luck at being below her best at a time when the women’s field never felt more open.

Eight months and a second business launch later, the 26-year-old is in a decidedly better place, having punctuated a mid-career renaissance with a first trip back to the Top 20 in over three years.

“I’ve been kind of emotional the last few days, to be honest,” she told me at the Miami Open on Monday. “I had doubts that I would ever come back to this level, so I’m really proud.”

Vekic returns to the Sunshine State feeling success on all fronts, starting the season with a second career Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open and reveling in the debut of Donna Sport, her clothing collaboration with Uomo Sport.

“I didn’t know what the feedback was going to be, but everyone’s loved it and it’s been super positive,” said Vekic, affectionately known as “DV Businesswoman” by her team. “It’s a new experience, still trying to juggle everything, but it’s really fun.”


Her dense off-court life, which also includes a line of DNNA candles, does little to lessen the stress of life on tour. Instead, the Croat has found solace in reclaiming her physical fitness after a persistent knee injury derailed much of her last two seasons.

“When you’re feeling physically fine, you have that extra confidence on court and trust in your game, so that definitely helps.”

She has done much of that work with former US Open finalist and Hall of Famer Pam Shriver, who caught the former world No. 19 playing a qualifying match last fall in San Diego and offered some welcome advice.

“When you have such a legend, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to ask them, ‘What do you think about my game?’” Vekic explained in a TenniStory interview.

Their bourgeoning partnership paid immediate dividends: Vekic scored consecutive upsets over Maria Sakkari, Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka, and Danielle Collins before pushing world No. 1 Iga Swiatek to three sets in the final.

“The thing is, I’ve been working really hard for months before the results started to come,” she told me. “So, it’s not something that happened overnight. It’s just great to finally see all that hard work coming through.”


I’ve been kind of emotional the last few days, to be honest...I had doubts that I would ever come back to this level, so I’m really proud. Donna Vekic

Vekic brought a new look into 2023 but has maintained that same San Diego momentum, winning her fourth career title in Monterrey—albeit at the expense of Adele.

“I was supposed to see her concert on a Friday, but that was the day of the Monterrey quarterfinals,” she joked, having not seen live music since Rihanna at age 12, “and I was like, ‘Oh shit, I’m missing Adele,’ but I won the title, so it was worth it!”

Buoyed by a playlist that includes an uncanny mix of the Love, Actually soundtrack and 21 Savage, she made her own kind of music in Mexico. Stunning WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in a match-of-the-year candidate final to not only herself in pole position to earn a new career-high ranking this spring, but also find herself looking towards a Finals berth of her own.

“Things are better than ever,” she said with a smile. “I’m No. 12 in the Race, which is probably the first time I’ve ever been that high, so I’m feeling pretty good.

“It’s not something I ever thought about, and obviously the season is super long, but my goal is mainly to stay healthy throughout the whole year and win as many matches as I can. I think the ranking will follow.”