The Russian missed a year of action following shoulder surgery – the latest in a long line of career-defining injury layoffs.
Her first match at the Shenzhen Open came against top seed and tournament headliner, Li Na.
Following an injury or self-imposed absence, making a return to professional tennis isn’t easy.
The physical and mental grind of the world’s most global sport is unmatched, and the (re)learning curve is steep even for the sport’s most established veterans.
Some, like Justine Henin, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters, managed to look like they never left. For most, the road back to respectability is arduous.
A season ago, Vera Zvonareva returned to the WTA Tour perhaps earlier than she should’ve.
Li was the victor, 7-5, 6-3, but it seemed as though Zvonareva had won. She sputtered for the rest of 2014 and played just three matches between the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Even the lawns of the All-England Club, the site of some of her greatest – and worst – career moments, couldn’t lift her.
She made the third round, dispatching wildcard Tara Moore and Donna Vekic, but her tennis wasn’t pretty.
After playing a handful of matches for the Austin Aces of Mylan World Team Tennis over the summer, Zvonareva shut her season down, proclaiming that she was not yet pain-free.
She returned to tennis in December at an ITF Pro Circuit event in Hong Kong, where the total purse was ,000.
Held at the venue of the WTA International event, a former World No.
2 – a woman who contested Grand Slam finals and classics against some of the sport’s greatest – roamed around after her own balls in front of a crowd of sparse hundreds in the shadow of a public park.