MELBOURNE, Australia – The two unretired retirees may, at some stage, have thought they’d never hit the courts at Melbourne Park again.
But there they were, former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and former No. 7 Patty Schnyder, back at the Australian Open in the qualifying this week.
Zvonareva, now 33 and a mom, hit No. 2 in the singles rankings in 2010 and also made the top 10 in doubles, at No. 9 in 2015.
She returned to Melbourne for the first time since 2015 – three eventful years. That year, she lost in the second round of the main draw to Serena Williams.
Zvonareva had played the Australian Open 12 straight times, since 2003, and reached the semifinals in 2009 and 2011.
A couple of months later, she was gone. And she didn’t return for two years.
When she did, she was a wife and a mother, with no ranking, starting back with baby steps at a $15,000 ITF in Istanbul, Turkey. Right now, she’s No. 200 in the world. And this is her second Grand Slam appearance since her return. She lost in the second round of US Open qualifying last year to American college player Jamie Loeb.
Seven years for Schnyder
For Schnyder, who tuned 39 last month, it has been even longer.
As it happens, her ranking also sits at a very even number – 150.
She played the Australian Open 14 times, from 1997 through 2011 missing just one year, 2010. She was a semifinalist in 2004 and a quarterfinalist the next two years.
This was her first time back since 2011.
Unfortunately for the two veterans, they went down in the first round.
Zvonareva was beaten 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 by a fellow Russian, Anna Kalinskaya. Kalinskaya was the No. 3 junior two years ago after winning the junior doubles here, and is just 19 now.
Schnyder was beaten by Bernarda Pera, a stylish 23-year-old Croatian-born New Jerseyite, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
Will they be back? No reason not to think so.
Schnyder would be 40 the next time around. With Kimiko Date finally retired now, there needs to be another 40-something to inspire the rest of us.