“I was waiting tables two years ago, now I’m here,” says Knutson
Gabriela Knutson has had a truly special journey to reaching WTA-level tennis. The Czech-American tennis player sidelined tennis to focus on studying before returning to tournaments at the age of 24. She has since made it to the semi-finals of two ITF tournaments and has slowly but surely been making her way up the world ranking over the last year and a half and is now on the brink of making it into the top 200 and appearing at Grand Slam qualifiers.
Knutson also just got her very first start at a WTA tournament, making it through qualifying of this year’s Livesport Prague Open before ending her journey with a 6-2 4-6 4-6 loss to Tereza Martincová in the opening round the 2023 edition of the tournament held in the capital of Czechia.
“I was nervous at the start – I knew the match was going to be broadcast on TV so I had to ask how everything works before the start,” said a smiling Knutson, referencing her first encounter with the hawk-eye system.
“I had to find my feet a bit but once the match started everything settled. It was full focus and no distractions – I think I handled that really well,” she thought.
Knutson was really looking forward to facing Martincová, who she first met in Warsaw only a few weeks ago: “I was sitting on the couch in Warsaw last week and in came Tereza and asked me in English if she can sit next to me,” she remembered.
“I’m really proud of myself. I spoke to my brother this morning and told him that I still can’t quite believe that I’m here. I was waiting tables in England a year and a half ago and now I’m starting at a WTA tournament!”
The 24-year-old restarted her career after studying only last January. Since then, she has already won three ITF tournaments and is currently ranked 240th on the WTA Ranking. However, her triumphant return to tennis hasn’t been as straight forward as it may seem.
“I was often stuck in the bar working until two in the morning and had to be up and ready at the courts by six. It’s been tough managing work alongside school and tennis to have enough money to play professionally,” said Knutson, “I still have to play leagues to make enough money for tournament entry fees. It’s a challenge but I think it will only get better from now.”
Knutson had hoped her performances would earn her a spot for qualifying for the US Open but, for now at least, she hasn’t made the line-up.
“I haven’t made the list for the US Open, but I won’t be defending too many points in Autumn, so Australia is looking promising. But I don’t want to speak too soon,” she concluded.
Photo: Livesport Prague Open / Pavel Lebeda (sport-pics.cz)