|Photo by Daniel Ward|
World number 15 Lucie Safarova was at the peak of her career last year when she had to be hospitalized for a serious bacterial infection. The Czech star won the 2015 Doha event, reached the final of the French Open, reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, and played a leadership role in her Fed Cup team’s run to the championship. And that was just in singles. She and partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands won the Australian Open and the French Open doubles titles, and they also won in Stuttgart and Toronto.
Safarova then experienced the double curse that sometimes occurs with a bacterial infection; she developed reactive arthritis, also. Out for several months, the 29-year-old Czech is back on the tour and enjoying a good doubles run (with Mattek-Sands) in Charleston. I talked with her about the state of her health and the decisions she has made to manage her condition.
“There is a lot of work to do because there is not a precise cure,” Safarova explained. There are, of course, medical treatments which are the most effective in treating the pain, but, she added they “are not the best option for your health.” For that reason, Safarova has chosen to utilize the least invasive treatments she can find to prevent and treat any recurring arthritic pain she may experience.
“I’ve been pretty good with my diet and everything my whole life, so I guess that’s helping me,” she said. She also noted that being an athlete made her more likely to maintain a higher level of health, and that her focus is to protect her immune system. She’s currently working with a dietician, and is open to the possibility of acupuncture treatment. Safarova, who has utilized yoga in the past, has recently begun practicing qigong.
“It’s kind of hard to decide because, obviously, you can try everything,” Safarova explained, “but it’s important, if you decide for treatment, that you trust, and if you’re in a state of trusting, it’s helping you a lot.”
Illness never comes at a good time, but Safarova’s came just as she was achieving milestones at the highest level of her career. “I felt like ‘everything is going great in my life’ and then suddenly, I’m stopped,” she recalled, noting the emotional challenge she faced.
“You just take it as it is,” the Czech star said. She is able to find some positive things about her time off—spending time with her family, reading and watching movies, and “sleeping in my own bed. It’s always nice because you never get to do it as a professional tennis player.”
Safarova said she never believed that she would do anything but recover. Her intent is to be patient and to maintain a positive attitude: “Negativity is not gonna move you forward.”