“I still love tennis very much despite what it has made me suffer.”

“I still love tennis very much despite what it has made me suffer.”

As young as four years old Estela Somarriba (Madrid, 1998) when she discovered her passion for tennis. She started with a small racket and a ball competing against herself, at the kitchen door of her house. The passing of the years did not dampen her ambition to achieve her dream of becoming a professional tennis player. At the age of seven she began to compete at the national level, little by little she took the step to international tournaments and at the age of twenty she achieved the milestone she had always dreamed of. no Spanish tennis player had ever achieved before in history.to win the NCAA (American senior league) championship title.

It was then, when she had taken all the steps to jump to the professional circuit and had managed to settle in the top 600 in just four tournaments, when. a serious wrist injury halted his unstoppable progress.. After almost two years of operations, gym work and a lot of patience, Estela, one of the most promising players in our country, decided to hang up her racket. Now she reviews the challenges she experienced, the moment of the hard decision, and the challenges that life outside the courts has in store for her now in a chat with 20 Minutes.

How do you do?I’m fine, the last two years have been difficult, complicated years, with many decisions… but I think I’ve been able to manage it and I’m proud of how I’ve been able to turn the page.

On March 16, you publish a statement on your networks… it is the last day of your career, how do you live those hours?I had already made the decision quite a few weeks before when I saw that I was not recovering from my wrist injury and knowing that, with the alternatives I had, it was unlikely that I would be able to continue playing. Part of me thought about posting that a few weeks before, it was my instinct and I thought I was doing the right thing, but suddenly a thought comes to you at night and you wonder, what if I heal? In the end there came a point where I said to myself, ‘you have to be brave and take it on board, accept it even if it hurts’.

Now that you have been able to ‘chew it over’ do you regret any decision you made during the whole process?In the end you always make decisions with all the information you know at the time. I went to the best doctors, I had the best trainers, the best physiotherapists… in the end you have a clear conscience that you have done everything in your power. Sometimes things don’t work out and it’s no use complaining, it’s easy to say things in the past? I can’t reproach myself for anything.

It is a very hard and very recent story, but you talk about it very naturally, how has the work of acceptance been?Well, it is something that I have worked on and that I like to transmit. It has been a mixture of my personality, of not regretting and knowing how to turn the page, and of what I have been learning in these two years of moments in which it is difficult to see the light. In the end we go back to the beginning: the only thing that will save you from this situation is to see the positive side, no matter how hard it is.

I can’t reproach myself for anything.

Estela Somarriba.
Estela Somarriba.
Estela Somarriba.

What would you say has been the positive side of that injury?The most positive thing is that I have realized how strong I am and that my goals have remained there despite everything, despite the operations, the infiltrations, the consultations, the doubts… it is something I am proud of. And, on the other hand, realizing that there are many other things besides tennis that I do really well, it is also important to realize that not all your skills depend on tennis.

How do you work through an injury that constantly breaks deadlines?It’s very different an injury that has you down for a month, two, or even six and of which you know the diagnosis and the time, because you put the countdown and you feed on that date. The uncertainty is the worst thing because you have to find motivation in things other than getting back to play. Doing a better repetition in the gym, gripping the racquet and feeling good, having less pain when the physio does a certain movement, that’s where you see progress. It takes time and you have to find enjoyment in the process, and as impossible as it may seem, you can get a lot of positives out of it.

The most positive thing is that I’ve realized how much strength I have.

Did you suffer such a complicated injury before?I had an injury when I was 17, plantar fasciitis, which kept me out of the courts for eight months, but I had it at the time of transition when I had to decide whether to go to the United States. I took it the different way because there were more things that filled my day, I was not being a 100% tennis player there because I was still a junior player.

And the wrist slowed you down just when you had made the leap to the professional circuit?The injury came to me from one day to the next, during a tournament in Gran Canaria. I started to have a very strong pain in my left wrist, the moment I hit my first backhand that morning tears fell from my eyes. I tolerate pain well and, when my body reacted that way, it is because I was really suffering from something I could not bear.

I was suffering from something I couldn’t stand.

But you finished that game…I have never withdrawn from a tennis match, I am one of those who pulls until the end, then well, without knowing how I finished, and I won, and the next day I went to Madrid to take the first tests. I was the first one who was calm at the beginning because you always have to trust your physique and that you are ready to face many matches, but deep down I was a little bit afraid because it was a really unbearable pain.

What do you take away from your brief time at the elite level?I really liked the circuit the short time I was competing after finishing my university stage. The truth is that it was great, because I saw myself with a lot of level, I saw myself enjoying, traveling and fighting with the best.

I had a champion’s mentality, and that was reflected in my matches.

And that in the United States she reached the top, she is the only Spaniard to have won the NCAA title.Yes, Spanish and Spanish, I am very happy for that achievement. It was a special moment in my career because I went to the United States without knowing what to expect, without knowing the system and the truth is that I loved the competition of the college league. For me it was a goal to be national champion, I had reached the semifinals in my first year and when I got it it was a dream come true, it opened many doors for me.

Estela Somarriba.
Estela Somarriba.
Estela Somarriba.

Many Spanish tennis players try their luck there and very few reach the elite as you did. What is the key?It is true that the type of university you go to is very important, you must go to a place that fits you with your goals, with your lifestyle. I think I made especially good use of my time there, I had a champion mentality, to go for everything, and that was reflected a lot in my games.

I still play for fun… What do you know.

What path do you start now, will you still be linked to the tennis world?I am still defining it. We tennis players think that tennis is all about us, and even if we study and we can have a plan b, until you have the chance to decide, you don’t know. I will be one hundred percent linked to the sports industry because I am passionate about it and because I believe I can create value in companies that are investing in it. Sports agencies, sponsorships, marketing… these are some of the topics that catch my attention.
Among all the sports is tennis, of course. I still love this sport very much, in spite of what it has made me suffer I owe a lot to it. I love it, I will always love it.

Besides the more business side, do you see yourself as a coach?In the end what we know how to do best is to play tennis and we also know how to teach because we have been taught ourselves. I do not rule it out and I think I can complement it with another profession, and although my focus will always be more linked to the business side, the doors are always open to coaching.

Are you still playing?Yes, I’m still playing for fun… What do you know, right?

Kayleigh Williams