Kim Clijsters isn’t the only former top player who announced her comeback to professional tennis this week - Tatiana Golovin, a former No. 12 who had to leave the tour at the peak of her career 11 years ago due to a persistent back injury, has announced she may be back on tour as soon as next month.
“The idea took shape last year, but I’ve been taking it very seriously since the summer,” said Golovin, who’s stayed close to the tennis world since her first playing years as a part of French television broadcasting. “I began physical training last month. The goal was to be ready for the start of next year but things are moving quickly, and as of now I’m considering to perhaps come back mid-October.”
The back injury that forced a 20-year-old Golovin out of the game in 2008, a disease called ankylosing sponylytis, is a form of arhritis that affects the spine, causing inflammation of the vertebrae that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort. But there’s new hope regarding the condition.
“In the last 18 months I’ve been asked on several occasions to talk about it, and in speaking with doctors, I learned that there were treatments that could possibly allow me to come back,” she said.
Golovin burst into prominence at the 2004 Australian Open where, right before her 16th birthday, she made it all the way to the fourth round as a No. 354-ranked wildcard. She then won her first Grand Slam title in mixed doubles at the French Open, alongside fellow French teenager Richard Gasquet, and a few weeks later she’d reach her first WTA final on the grass courts of Birmingham - finishing runner-up to a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova, who would go on to win Wimbledon a few weeks later.
Having started the year at No. 355, Golovin got all the way to No. 27 by the 2004 year-end rankings.
The Frenchwoman recorded two more Top 30 finishes in 2005 and 2006, reaching another two WTA finals at Tokyo in 2005 and Stuttgart in 2006, as well as her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 2006 US Open, where she fell to Sharapova - who would go on to win the title - in two tie-breaks.
It was her 2007 season that propelled her to new heights, though. She won her first WTA title on the green clay of Amelia Island, beating Sam Stosur, Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Nadia Petrova in the last four rounds, and she went on a tear right after the US Open, winning 15 of 18 matches to capture another WTA title in Portoroz, reach the quarterfinals of Luxembourg and back-to-back finals at large indoor events in Stuttgart and Zurich, falling to then-No. 1 Justine Henin in both finals.
Having left the US Open ranked No. 19 in the world, Golovin finished the 2007 season at No. 13, and she reached a career-high ranking of No. 12 a few months later on February 4, 2008.
Three months later, the Frenchwoman was off the tour.
Still just 31 years old, Golovin - who now has two kids - will also join a growing crop of mothers-on-tour that currently includes Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Vera Zvonareva and, soon, Clijsters.