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Daniela Hantuchova Slovak faces the future as star calls it quits

Daniela Hantuchova called time on her career and voiced the fear and excitement of a top tennis star calling it quits and stepping into the unknown.

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Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova has retired from tennis play

Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova has retired from tennis


Daniela Hantuchova called time on her career and voiced the fear and excitement of a top tennis star calling it quits and stepping into the unknown.

Hantuchova, 34, who won a giant fanbase with her supermodel looks, was the world number five who suffered a very public meltdown struggling with the pressure of her rapid rise to the top.

After putting her career back on track, she became only the fifth player to lift every Grand Slam mixed doubles title. Hantuchova also won the 2002 Fed Cup with Slovakia.

Her decision to quit came quickly in the last couple of weeks.

"I've done so much for so many years. I felt like it was time to close the chapter and start a new life," she said on Friday, the first full day her retirement.

She last played at Rabat in May before suffering a rib stress fracture.

"For almost two months, I couldn't really do anything. Suddenly there was a day when I didn't miss going to the gym and training, for the first time ever. I did my rehab and tried to ignore it, but it just kept coming back."

Breaking the rhythm

A tennis player's life is dictated by the next match, the next plane, the next city, drifting between hotels around the world on an annual rhythm of tournaments.

But despite initial worries, Hantuchova is looking forward to breaking the pattern of her entire adult life.

"The freedom of not knowing is really exciting. It was a bit scary to make that step but once I did it, it felt amazing," she said.

"You know every week what's going to happen. Now I have no idea what comes next and that's what I love about it.

"Suddenly I can plan holidays. I can think about where I'm going to spend Christmas -- something I've not been able to do all my life. It's those little things that make me so happy."

The Monte Carlo resident's future plans include getting married and having a family, growing her protein bars business and continuing her nascent television tennis punditry career.

"As far as work goes, I'm really open to anything," she said, though there is "zero chance" of her going into coaching.

Rise, fall and rebirth

After turning professional in 1999, 2002 was Hantuchova's breakthrough year when she stormed up the rankings and won Indian Wells, beating Martina Hingis in the final.

But the following year things fell apart amid claims -- always denied -- that she was struggling with anorexia, ending with a tearful meltdown on court at Wimbledon.

"It was pretty simple. "You have an unbelievable year, everything goes so fast, so obviously the year afterwards is going to be a tough one.

"Looking back now, everything seems so easy, I should have done this or that," she said.

"But those are the moments that actually made me really strong. I wouldn't be the person I am today if it was not for those times."

Though her career earned her more than $10 million, her bids for the top prizes in tennis were typically halted by Serena and Venus Williams as the sisters dominated the sport.

But Hantuchova relished duelling with the best.

"They were always pushing me, especially Serena, to find a way how I can always improve," she said.

Besides her tennis talent, Hantuchova is a classically-trained pianist and is looking to tinkle the ivories once more.

"I do want to start with that again when I have time because it's something I really enjoy doing and I do regret that I stopped," she said.

"So now I have to go back to basics."

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