Former VCO champ Petkovic comes through ‘bad phase’

2014 champion Andrea Petkovic went through a “bad phase” but said she’s happy to be back on Daniel Island for the Volvo Car Open. (Grace Beahm/Staff)

When Andrea Petkovic won in Charleston in 2014, it seemed a rejuvenation for the tall, athletic German’s tennis career. A top 10 player in 2011 before injuries struck, she went on to win twice more in 2014 and broke back into the top 10 in 2015.

But Petkovic’s path has not been nearly as smooth as that of countrywoman Angelique Kerber, who launched a run of four titles in 2015 at Charleston. Kerber then won the Australian Open for her first Grand Slam trophy this year, rising to No. 2 on the WTA Tour behind Serena Williams.

Petkovic, on the other hand, found herself pondering retirement late last year at the age of 28, a move that would have robbed the tour of one of its funniest and most open personalities.

“I think it was just a bad phase of growing up,” said Petkovic, who is back on Daniel Island for the fourth time at the Volvo Car Open. “Sometimes you wish you were not so much in the spotlight. I think it was just me questioning my life decision at that point, and asking myself where would I have been had I gone on a different path.”

Petkovic grew up in a tennis family, her father Zoran having played at the University of South Carolina.

“When you are young, you have so many doors open,” she said. “The older you get, a lot of doors close for you, and it was just the sudden realization that some doors have closed in my life because of tennis.”

Petkovic’s mother fell ill in 2015, adding to her doubts. Some good results on court hid her internal struggles, but Petkovic said she was uncertain for a good five or six months.

“I was unhappy with what I was doing, and trying to find a better way of living and enjoying myself,” she said.

At the end of the 2015 season, Petkovic took some time off and traveled with friends, spending a lot of time in New York City.

“I needed to be in the normal life for a while,” she said. “I needed to decide if I wanted to be in the tennis world, and if so under what conditions. It was a matter of me finding out if tennis was the choice I should have made.

“I came to the conclusion that it was a good choice, so it was all for nothing. I kind of suffered for nothing.”

Petkovic laughed when she said that, and seems to be having fun this week. She and Kerber did a photo shoot the other day, hitting balls back and forth on the beach at Breach Inlet.

But the tennis life — despite the photo shoots and the money (Petkovic has won $5.8 million in her career) — is not for everyone, she said.

“You have to be built for it,” Petkovic said. “You have to have a certain character, and embrace the loneliness at times, not only on court but off it. There are a lot of times when you are lonely. It sounds sad, but it’s not that sad. It’s just part of being a player that’s not told on the commercials.”

A Romanian media outlet is reporting that French player Caroline Garcia allegedly made offensive remarks during her 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 loss to Romanian player Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday.

Prosport said that Garcia, speaking in French, called Begu a “gypsy” during the match and used some “other bad words.” The remarks were reportedly caught on tape.

The incident made headlines in Romania, home country of tennis great Ilie Nastase. Nastase told Prosport that he also had been called “gypsy” by French players at the French Open.

A WTA official said the tour is looking into the incident