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'I'm top 10 but this is why I'm retiring'

Danielle Collins smiles with the Miami Open trophy
[BBC]

American player Danielle Collins has enjoyed one of the finest seasons of her life. The 30-year-old has moved back into the WTA top 10, having won 35 of her 45 matches and lifted the biggest title of her career in Miami. In her first BBC Sport column at the French Open, Collins explains why she is retiring at the end of the season.

A lot of people have been surprised by my decision to retire while I've been having some of the best success of my career.

But for me it was really important to end on a positive note.

I'm going to be 31 at the end of the year and one of my biggest goals outside of tennis is to have a family.

Being able to have a family is challenging as a woman when your career depends on your body. It would be especially difficult to think about playing tennis while pregnant.

Added to this, I deal with two chronic health conditions: rheumatoid arthritis and endometriosis, which can affect fertility and your ability to have children.

Some research estimates up to 30-50% of women with endometriosis experience infertility, and time isn't on my side either.

I have a smaller window available to get pregnant and to make sure that hopefully happens. I'm also introverted and like to be at home mostly.

I've loved my experience of being a professional tennis player and travelling the world. Tennis has given me the opportunity to have so many incredible experiences, many of which would not have been possible for me otherwise.

But I'm ready for my next chapter.

'Sometimes it's hurtful when people say I should reconsider'

I know there are a lot of great fans and people out there encouraging me to rethink things.

But I have sometimes found it hurtful when people push back.

Some people are quick to give their input and advice when they don't really know what you are going through.

I've been very vocal about something that is deeply personal and that a lot of people do not want to talk about. The only thing I have asked is people to respect my decision.

I would like there to be a higher level of conversation about the awareness of endometriosis. It's an issue that can affect my life on a very deep level.

What I find more of an issue is when I try and explain my decision and how it has had to do with my personal journey with endometriosis. People conflate the issues and are quick to disregard my reality and vulnerability, instead making it entirely about tennis.

I find it empowering to talk about endometriosis.

I like to share my experience so that other people facing similar challenges don't have to feel alone. At the same time, you're also opening yourself to vulnerability around a topic that can be challenging to talk about.

Like me, there are a lot of women and people whose goal is to have children. It is hard when you are constantly being challenged about that issue, especially publicly.

In a press conference a few days ago someone said "what could change your mind?"

I found myself once again explaining how I have had multiple surgeries and seen multiple medical professionals.

I've been advised by doctors that my pregnancy journey should begin as soon as possible, given the severity of my endometriosis.

Through this experience I have found most people aren't very empathetic to the struggles others go through.

On the other hand, I have found incredible support through different groups and from other women who have dealt with endometriosis. The sweet messages, encouragement and support doesn't go unnoticed. Without this support, sharing my journey would feel like a dead end.

Unfortunately, there a lot of people who don't understand the challenges women with endometriosis face.

That's why I want to start my own charity to help give women with endometriosis and other women's health issues the support they need.

'I've missed weddings and funerals - I want a normal life'

While I announced my decision after losing to Iga Swiatek at the Australian Open, it had been on the cards for a while.

I even told my boyfriend when I met him at Wimbledon last year that I was going to be retiring in the next year or two.

I had not known him very long and I said "right now this is my life, but it won't be my life forever".

A lot of my friends and family already knew my thoughts and knew I wasn't going to be someone that had a long-lived career.

I love tennis and a lot of the things it has to offer. But playing professional tennis offers some challenges I don't think everyone is aware of.

Travel is incredibly demanding and you don't get to have a normal life. Weddings, funerals, bachelorette parties are all things I've missed out on.

I've spent enough time living in hotel rooms - a lot of times, not very nice hotel rooms.

I've spent many days feeling sad, missing friends and family, feeling isolated, having separation anxiety being away from my dog and not enjoying not being able to live a normal life.

Being a professional tennis player and being lonesome often are inextricably interwoven.

Of course I got to have other incredible experiences through tennis which are so exciting and so meaningful. But, at the same time, I missed out on some really important bonds and friendships because of how demanding our lifestyle is.

I'm incredibly grateful to have this career, that goes without saying. It is an incredible opportunity. But tennis is not a forever career. I've always looked at tennis as what I do and not who I am.

I've always known that, for me, I've wanted my tennis career to be short, sweet, and memorable.

Danielle Collins was talking to BBC Sport's Jonathan Jurejko at Roland Garros.