Tennis: Russia's Chakvetadze retires at 26 because of back injury

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's former tennis world No.5 and US Open semi-finalist Anna Chakvetadze, whose career was blighted by a horrific armed robbery in 2007, on Thursday announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 26 owing to chronic back injuries.

"I no longer see myself in professional tennis so I am ready to say that my career is over," she told the Sport Express daily.

"Of course, this was a difficult decision and I thought hard about it but now it is finally taken. I understood that the point of return to tennis was behind me.

"I have a chronic back injury," she explained. "So I took the decision to stop and start a new life."

In a decade-long career, which earned her more than US$3.9 million (S$4.93 million) in prize money, Chakvetadze reached the semi-finals of the US Open in 2007, won eight WTA singles titles and was also a member of two Russian teams which won the Fed Cup women's team competition.

In 2007, she climbed to No.5 in the world singles rankings but has since plunged to 577.

Many believe her subsequent decline can be traced back to the trauma of being robbed at knife-point at home at the peak of her career in December 2007 by robbers who stole US$300,000 and beat up her father.

"After this my season was a complete failure. They did not rob me at a good time," she told the paper with heavy irony. "Yes, it affected my further career."

But she said the trauma had changed her and made her "look more deeply at things".

"When the attack happened I thought that was it for us. But we stayed alive."

She said her parents still live in the same house and the criminals were never found.

That incident took place two weeks before she lost in straight sets to compatriot Maria Sharapova in an exhibition match in Singapore.