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When Mandy Minella’s 21-year tennis career came to a close on Wednesday, there was one overriding emotion: relief, writes Oli Dickson Jefford at Wimbledon Qualifying.
Mum-of-two Minella, 36, Luxembourg’s most successful female player in history, fell 7-6 (3) 3-6 6-2 in the second round of Wimbledon qualifying to Maddison Inglis, having revealed on Twitter days before that it would be her final tournament.
There was disappointment in defeat, but an overriding sense of pride as she stepped off court - accompanied by her youngest daughter, 18-month-old Maya.
Minella commented: “It was a tough match. I struggled a lot on the grass, I couldn’t find my serve straight away and I couldn’t find aggressive play as I wanted, but I must say she played really good.
“She has a flat ball that goes really deep and low, so I struggled a bit with that. She had a really good serve, I think she made a lot of first serves.
“It was a good battle, it was not the most beautiful match I suppose, but I fought until the end. Unfortunately it was not good enough to win.
“I’m relieved, I’m happy. It’s time to stop. I’ve had a great career. If I knew when I started that I was going to do that career, I would have signed for sure.
“I played on Wimbledon Centre Court, twice - it’s an achievement twice to play on that fantastic court. I’ve been two times in the third round of the US Open.
“I qualified here and won one round, I lost with match points to Sloane Stephens in 2016, that was a big highlight. I won Bol, it was my biggest title.
“I think I’ve been very constant over my career. I’ve been pretty stable all year long. I think I have over 20 Grand Slam main draws, in doubles I’ve been top 50, so I think I’ve had a pretty solid career.”
Serena Williams made global headlines in 2017 when it emerged that she had won the Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant; later that year, Minella was four-and-a-half months pregnant when she played against Francesca Schiavone at Wimbledon.
She and husband Tim Sommer, also her coach, welcomed daughter Emma Lina in the October of that year, before Maya was born in December 2020.
Minella played in four Grand Slam main draws after giving birth to Emma Lina and also played multiple qualifying events after welcoming Maya.
The return to tour of Williams and Victoria Azarenka post-pregnancy have put the roles of mothers on tour in the spotlight, and the Luxembourger recognises that it took a collective effort to allow her to continue her career.
“I’m very lucky that I could compete and that my husband and my family were willing to do all the effort so that I can play and that I can compete, that I can practice,” she said.
“It’s teamwork, so I’m very thankful to them.”
Her children getting older has played a factor in her decision to call time on a career which saw her reach a career high of 66th in the WTA singles rankings and 47th in doubles.
Yet, it won’t be a complete departure from the sport.
She added: “I’m still going to play a bit as a semi-professional. I’m going to play the league matches as I like the team spirit.
“I still love to play, it’s just that it’s been exhausting with two kids. The biggest one is going to school so I don’t want to be alone, not being with them.
“I will be around. I hope I can still stay involved with sports, maybe commentating - that would be great - and maybe at home, event planning, but hopefully still in sports.”
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