It is a professional tennis player’s worst nightmare. To be told at the peak of your career you have a debilitating illness.
But that is exactly what happened to Russian born player Tatiana Golovin in 2008, the year she achieved her highest career ranking ever, Number 12 in the world.
|Height:||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
Just as her career was taking off doctors diagnosed her recurring back injury as Ankylosing Spondylitis and she was forced to give up competitive tennis.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is chronic inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease. It mainly affects the joints in the spine and the pelvis joint and it can cause eventual fusion of the spine, meaning it goes completely rigid, hence the condition is known as bamboo spine.
Born in Moscow Golovin moved to Paris with her parents and obtained French citizenship. She spent six years at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Bradenton Florida and 2004 she won the French Open Mixed Doubles with Richard Gasquet. In 2006 she reached the quarter-finals of the French Open losing to the eventual champion Maria Sharapova.
She was 23 years old when she achieved her World Ranking of 12 and she was heading to become the best in the world. She had missed competition through a back injury which was getting worse, and that was when her disease was diagnosed and she was advised to give up competitive play.
Golovin played her last match in 2008 but she was back on the tennis scene in 2009. She commentated for French TV at the French Open at Roland Garros, and she also appeared in Sports Illustrated magazine alongside Daniela Hantuchova and Maria Kirilenko in a pictorial entitled “Volley of the Dolls”.
Before she retired in 2008 at a ceremony in Paris in May 2007 she was named Promoter of Gender Equality as per the partnership between the WTA Tour and UNESCO which aims to promote women’s leadership and gender in all spheres of society.
Golovin now lives in Hampstead, North London with her long-term boyfriend French footballer Samir Nasri who signed a four-year deal with Arsenal in 2008.
When he is playing she has her Yorkshire Terrier Belle, Labrador Missie, and Persian cat Cherie to keep her company.
Tatiana Golovin does not know if she will ever be able to play tennis competitively again. The disease can come and go, with long periods when sufferers feel normal, but she would always worry that her back would seize up completely during an important match.