Yesterday, Aravane Rezai lost to Kristina Barrois in the first round of Indian Wells qualifying. The Frenchwoman's attempts to return to her former status have repeatedly failed, and I, for one, think that women's tennis is all the worse for it. There are fans who "don't like" Rezai, but I'm not one of them. If I used words like "spunky" and "feisty," I'd use them to describe the small (as tennis players go) woman in the sometimes bizarre metallic tennis outfits who can hit harder than almost anyone on the tour.
It was only 2010, but it seems like so long ago that Rezai won the Madrid title, beating Venus Williams in the final. Prior to winning the championship, Rezai took out Justine Henin, Klara Zakopalova, Andrea Petkovic, Jelena Jankovic, and Lucie Safarova (who retired in the semifinals). At that time, the Frenchwoman looked like a force to be reckoned with--a player who could will herself past her shorter stature, smaller frame, and sometimes-inconsistent shot-making.
But even then, it was well known that Rezai's father--accused of being an abusive taskmaker when his daughter was a child--was a troublemaker on the tour. He had a reputation for being not only inappropriate, but also a bully. In 2006, he physically attacked Elena Vesnina's father, and eventually, the French Tennis Federation (a body that is undoubtedly accustomed to dealing with very strong personalities) hired bodyguards to protect people from Arsalan Rezai.
Eventually, there was a public fight between Rezai's father and her significant other, and things got very ugly. Rezai, who asked fans to just get past the incident because she planned to, hasn't been the same since. Two years ago, she was ranked number 15 in the world; today, she is ranked number 125.
Rezai lost in the first round of the Australian Open to Peng Shuai--a tough opponent for anyone. Recently, she lost in the first round of qualifying in Acapulco. Next week, Rezai will observe her 25th birthday. There is still time for a comeback. In the meantime, Rezai's disappearance is the WTA's loss.