Nadia Petrova

August 6, 2020

”I was born to an athletic family. My mom was a bronze medalist in the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 4 x 400 relay. My dad coached an Olympic medalist in the hammer throw. I have sport in my genes. My parents introduced me to tennis and I had success right away. At age 14, I won my first ITF Junior event and realized I wanted to play professionally. That same year, I played my first WTA event. The transition from juniors to the professional circuit was difficult because I had to raise my physical and mental level. I slowly got to that level and at age 17, I turned professional. In 2005, I broke into the Top 10. In 2006, I climbed to number 3 in the world. I won tournament after tournament on clay and was one of the favorites heading into the 2006 French Open. But the rest of the ride was not as smooth. A couple days before the 2006 French Open, I injured my left hip. That injury threw me off and I was never able to return to the same level of tennis. I came back and played the 2006 US Open Series but (more…)

Stefanos Tsitsipas

July 30, 2020

“In 2018, I broke into the Top 15 and was seeded in Grand Slams. That’s when I understood my potential. In the beginning, I traveled with only my dad. Now, I travel with my dad, mom, and three siblings. I’m the main source of income for my family.  I have hobbies that keep me interested in different aspects of life. These activities keep me creative and are reflected in my tennis game and presence on court. Sometimes, I post things on my social media that not many people understand. These posts express my inner creativity. I’m just trying to be different from the rest. I put Stefanos’ twist on life. I am philosophical, I come from a country with a history of philosophy and I don’t know if I was Pythagoras or Socrates in my previous life, but I wouldn’t mind being either one.  There was a time when I wasn’t doing well. I started to play futures and was doubting myself. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to play professional tennis. My country was going through hard times. Greece was on the verge of bankruptcy. The entire population was suffering. My father’s siblings were unemployed and couldn’t (more…)

Aleksandra Krunic

July 23, 2020

“As a kid, I was used to winning way more than losing. Everyone around me considered winning as ‘normal’, and something to not even really celebrate. It changes when you start moving up age groups, and need time to get used to that level of tennis. I struggled a lot and took me some time to break into the top 100. My career has been very up and down, ranking wise but thankfully have been steadily between 50-100 in the world the last couple years. After getting to the WTA level, I kind of lost my purpose. Once money, agents and everything else got involved I lost focus. All of 2019 I was asking myself questions, ‘Do I want this? Is it my dream or everyone else’s around me? Am I okay with top 50 or do I feel the need to do better for my coaches and family who think it is not good enough? What are my own dreams, wishes, needs and goals? How do I want to play my tennis and how do I enjoy myself?’ I am a very intuitive person and I feel like everyone’s opinion got in the way of my own intuition and (more…)

Ashley Harkleroad

July 16, 2020

“At age 14, I was number one in the nation. At age 15, I turned professional and signed a five-year deal with Nike and signed with CAA. By 16, I was number 3 in the world in juniors. At 17, I made the finals of Junior French Open and won a $50,000 challenger event. By 18, I was number 39 in the world. Then I tore a ligament in my elbow. I decided to avoid surgery and took six months off to heal because I needed a break. I had been treating tennis like a job since age 13. I was burnt out and in a dark place. I developed an eating disorder. I was not handling the pressure of being on tour. My expectations were doubled by those of my family, team and agents. When I took time off, I did not freeze my ranking so it fell from inside the Top 50 to outside the Top 200. Eight months later, I felt mentally and physically strong enough to play again. My Nike contract was over and I had to pick up the pieces. My elbow felt better but never fully healed. At 19, I got married to fellow (more…)

Thiago Monteiro

July 9, 2020

“I am adopted. When I was born, my mother was recovering from breast cancer. She wanted to adopt because she thought I could be a shining star in her life. I owe everything to her. I never wanted to meet my biological parents because I don’t think it’s necessary. My mother raised me and nothing can change that. I am one of the first high level players from North Brazil. I come from a humble family, not poor but not rich. I grew up with my mother, brother and three sisters. I never met my father, my parents are separated and we have no contact with him. Growing up, I played tennis and football. At age 14, I left home to train at an academy, that was three and half hour flight from my hometown, in the south of Brazil. I lived there for five years while tennis transitioned from my hobby to a professional routine. Nobody in my city believed I could reach the top but my older brother was very supportive of my career. He would drive me 10 hours to play junior events. In 2015, I had match point in the final round of qualifying for a (more…)

Olga Danilović

July 2, 2020

“Both my parents were involved in sports. My mom was a sportscaster on national television and my dad played in the NBA. They have been together since age 16. I never felt pressure from my parents that I had to be an athlete. From a young age, I had freedom to do what I wanted. I tried ballet. I tried ice-skating. Then I tried tennis. Since then, I have been with my racquet all the time. Players often have a love-hate relationship with tennis. I had a lot of tough moments but I can’t imagine myself not being on the court practicing and playing matches. There is no pressure like there is in tennis. People often ask about my transition from juniors to the professional circuit. Honestly, I never understood what they wanted me to say because when I started playing in the professional circuit, I won two $15,000 events and played in the final of a $25,000 event. I won my first WTA title in Moscow in 2018. I had a quick rise to the top but then life hit me. It was not all going to be that easy, not everything would be rainbows and flowers. There had (more…)

Daria Kasatkina

June 25, 2020

“I finished 2018 ranked in the Top 10. The beginning of 2019 was very tough because everyone had high expectations. Meanwhile, I had split from my coach and most of my team. I did not have a practice partner so I could not prepare well for matches. I was alone, traveling to tournaments with only my brother. I was very lost. I wanted to take a break. But I had to play mandatory tournaments because of my ranking. If I chose not to play these events, I had to pay huge fines. So I continued playing but was breaking down. Tennis is one of the most difficult sports because you’re alone. Our season is longer than most other sports and we are not financially secure. If you’re not playing tournaments, you don’t earn money. If you do not play well at the main events, you have to earn money somewhere else so you play even more tournaments. At some point, you break down. Most of the professional players reach a point where they cannot do it anymore. I wondered if I wanted to quit. But then I thought, ‘If I want to quit now, what am I going to do?’ (more…)

Brandon Nakashima

June 18, 2020

“I struggle with being shy. I have always been introverted. As a junior player, I let my racquet do the talking. I didn’t talk to many people because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I am most comfortable speaking when I’m confident expressing what I feel. Between interviews and the college recruiting process, I started to speak up. I recently made big decisions for my future. I decided to go to college then I decided to turn professional. These choices were very tough moments for me. There were a lot of people voicing their opinions and I wanted to keep an open mind. In the end, I made choices that were best for my future. I am grateful for the support I received during this time.For me, college was the first step before turning professional. I had to decide which school and how long I would stay there. College helped my game as it allowed me to mature physically and mentally and prepare for life on tour. It was a hard decision to leave the University of Virginia. I built many strong relationships in college, and it was difficult leaving my teammates and coaches after only one semester. (more…)

Mary Pierce

June 11, 2020

“When I was 13 years old, my dad was my full-time coach and my mom was my full-time mom. There was no income and sometimes we lived out of our car. My dad showed me a bag of money and was like, ‘This is all we have.” Then he told me, ‘You better start winning because we need money.” That was a lot of pressure to put on a young child. I originally wanted to be a pediatrician. But when I first picked up a racquet, I looked like I had been playing for years so I felt that God had given me this gift to play tennis. I started at 10 and turned professional at 14. My dad took me out of school and was my coach until I was 18. During this time, I played tennis because I had no choice. I had to win because if I didn’t, my dad would get abusive and I was afraid of what would happen. Fear was the driving emotion. I’m grateful that I had my mom who was my pillar of support. I also had my brother who was my practice partner and later became my coach in 2000 and (more…)

Evan King

June 4, 2020

“Early 2015 was a pretty dark time for me. I had decided to quit professional tennis, get out of that bubble and enter the real world. With that lifestyle change came more time to live, reflect and consume everything outside of the professional tennis world. Around that time, there were a few high profile race-based killings in the United States. The murder that received the most publicity at the time was Trayvon Martin. There were a lot of others that didn’t grab mainstream media’s attention but these stories kept repeating themselves with no real change. As these murders kept occurring, and I was no longer solely consumed with that fuzzy yellow ball, I came to the realization that any one of those killings could have been me. I could have been that kid walking back from 7/11 wearing a hoodie and getting Skittles or more recently, I could have been Ahmaud Arbery going for a run in a white neighborhood before getting shot. Those realizations took me to a dark place. I was 22 and I was starting to think about what I was leaving behind in the world if my life ended unexpectedly. I thought I wanted a kid, (more…)