Aleksander Barkov

December 2, 2021

#CelebrityBTR– “I’m from Southern Finland and my parents are Russian. My dad moved from Russia to Finland before I was born. I’m the only Finnish guy in our family. My older brother started playing tennis at a young age so I got into tennis too. As a family, we love the sport and always follow Grand Slams. I live in Florida so I go to the Delray Beach Open and Miami Open. It is so much fun to be in the stands. Back in Finland, we had a challenger event in my hometown every summer. It was unreal. I was a ball boy at the tournament for six years. I was a ball boy for my brother’s match once. He played challengers for years but it was tough for him to become a good player and live in Finland. Finland is more into hockey than tennis. I started playing tennis at the same time I started hockey. I was four years old and played both sports as hobbies. At 13, I started having more hockey practices. Hockey was the number one sport in our family because my dad played professionally. But if I had not chosen hockey, I would have (more…)

Mylene Martin

November 21, 2021

#MyBTR– “Tennis has been in my family forever, so it was only natural that I asked to try when I was 2 years old. Over 30 years later, I still haven’t put the racquet down. Whatever happened in my life, tennis was there. Even on the hardest day of my life, tennis gave me relief.  I had to make the most difficult decision of my life to get out of a very tough marriage I had been in for over 5 years. The day I left, I played tennis, the only way I could stay clear and have the courage to do what had to be done to start the next chapter of my life. My life was about to change forever, and I had no idea where I was going to live, but I knew it was the right decision, even though it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.  The next day, I had a USTA league match scheduled, and once I told my parents what happened, they asked me if I was going to play. My answer: “Never thought of not playing.” Even though things were so chaotic and uncertain, once I was on the court, nothing (more…)

Sara Errani

November 11, 2021

“Sometimes I think, “Why am I still doing this? It’s really tough, maybe I should stop.” I’m not 20 years old anymore, but not many times I’ve thought about that. I was more like “I want to go through this thing. I think the only way is pass through tough moments, face them, not run away from them.” I had a very tough period of time last year where I couldn’t really enjoy playing because it was like playing’ with a ghost in my mind that was tough to manage. It was not easy. I fought a lot and I thought I could pass it — I’m here for that. I’m here because I really love tennis. I love playing and I want to have a good sensation playing on the court. [The drug tests] were really dark because I got through many things that were unbelievable, almost impossible to describe. They gave me two months the first time. Even there, it was incredible because I knew I didn’t do nothing. After that, I started again from 208 in the world. In a few months, I already went again in the top 100. My own country was against me. The (more…)

Mikhail Kukushkin

October 24, 2021

“I started to play tennis at the age of six. My father was a tennis coach. He brought me on the court when I was young, and he coached me until I was 17 years old.  My family didn’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t have a lot of opportunities because I was in a small-town, nothing else to look for — I was always playing tennis. I had just one dream to be a good tennis player. Until I was 17, I was not sure if I was able to go all the way. I was not sure of myself because I didn’t have enough support. Then of course, when I reached the top 200 in the world, I understood that I could be a good player. When I started to travel to the futures and challengers, I couldn’t take my father as a coach. I was always traveling with no coach and struggling financially. It was a lot of pressure on myself because I knew I had to play well, otherwise all the sacrifices that my parents made throughout my career when I was young, it was for nothing. I had some pressure. Of course, I (more…)

Leander Paes

October 17, 2021

“I grew up in a family where my father won a medal in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and he played field hockey. My mother on the other hand, all 5’1″ of her, captain of the Indian basketball team. Every Sunday, I used to wake up in the morning after church and polish my dad’s Olympic medal. It’s not rocket science that I wanted to play for India and represent 1.3 billion Indians to prove that we could be Olympic champions in an individual sport. My whole journey was about patriotism. It has been about playing for my people and it has been about inspiring 1 billion-plus people that we can be world champions on the global stage.  I realized that tennis was my vehicle and that if I wanted to get to the Olympics, I really had to persevere. I put my head down. I worked really hard for three years and in the summer of 1990, I won Junior Wimbledon. In February of 1990, I met another young Indian kid. I said to him, “Would you like to win Wimbledon?” He laughed at me and he said, “You’re crazy.” I said, “I know I’m crazy, but would you (more…)

Ankita Raina

October 7, 2021

“My mom has always been a sports enthusiast. I think that’s where I kind of started. I have an older brother who’s four years older than me, so he first got into the sport. We had a tennis academy right behind our house — we could literally see it from our window. Once I turned four, I was introduced I was in the top five rank in India. When I was under 16, I was selected in the Junior Fed Cup team. I think that was one of the moments where it was like it’s a dream for anyone to represent your country or play for your country. I think that’s rare. My mother’s support and my brother’s support, family support was really important.  I feel I’m very patriotic. Whenever I play Fed Cup, whenever I’m representing the country, I’ve always seen that my best results have come. Normally, you are representing your country, but it’s still individual. Every time, I always look forward to Fed Cup weeks because life on the road is very lonely. When you’re playing these team events, you have the whole team, you have other players and all the support. I don’t know. I see (more…)

JC Aragone

September 23, 2021

“Everyone’s heard of my original health scare, which left me in a coma — my initial fight to stay alive. Once I got through with that, I was like, “All right, I’m in the clear, I’m good.” It took me another six, seven months to even get back to playing. I was happy, and then I started playing. My first time back was Kalamazoo, and I actually played Jordan Daigle first round, who was coming to UVA. I just felt terrible. I just remember walking out there and I was chugging water like no other. I had to go to the bathroom four times. I just felt bad, dizzy. I hadn’t played a tournament in two years. I thought that was normal. I ended up flying home, went straight to the hospital, got some blood work, and that’s when they told me, “Hey, you have type one diabetes.” I guess it was just all the stress I’d been through that last year on my body.  Of course, that was difficult because you feel confused at times. I’ve been through so much so when they were like, “Oh, you’re going to be fine, you’re going to live,” I was like, “Okay, (more…)

Despina Papamichail

September 9, 2021

“It was a random summer. My best friend back then was like, “Come to the tennis court, Despi. The court is beautiful,” and I was like, “Okay.” Since day one, it just started like this — I liked it.  I liked tennis because it was an individual sport. I wanted the responsibility on me. You could either win or lose, but because of your own fault. I liked the sound of the ball. I like that you have a racket and you got to hit it so you need more coordination. There is not something specific that threw me into it, but the whole thing — I love the whole thing. The competition, the screaming, the match after match. Being a defensive player, I was winning a lot from the mistakes of the others. I had to change into an aggressive player. They were pushing me to be aggressive, and then I lost my game because I don’t think players should change their games. We started the tournaments the year that I was 18. 350 with so much pressure of winning, and I start losing. I was not sleeping, I was dreaming that they would take off my contract. I (more…)

Rennae Stubbs

September 2, 2021

#LegendaryBTR– “There is nothing about my career that I look back and I have huge regrets — I just feel like all of us have our own journey. I think the things that I eventually got to was because of what I went through. If I really look at my career, maybe I would have been a little bit more focused earlier on, not worrying about others or being popular. I made my last Wimbledon doubles finals in 2009. I played a long time. I probably could’ve played a few more years in doubles, but I also wanted to not travel quite as much. I’m not sad about it, because I knew I put everything into the sport for as long as I could.  I got a call through NBC, and she said, “Do you want to cover the Olympics for us in 2012?” I was contemplating retiring at that stage. I just thought it was an opportunity for me to get into a post-career life. I remember saying yes to her and putting the phone down. I literally said to myself, “Well, that’s it. I’m retired.” I like I’ve always coached my whole career. I was a very good (more…)

Kristyna Nepivodova

August 29, 2021

#MyBTR- “Matt Stevenson made an incredible impact on my life. And not only mine. His kind heart led the example to others. He was dedicated to coaching tennis, his always positive energy, outstanding sense of empathy and playful insight made his classes fun and kids loved him. He would never show a single sign of feeling sad or troubled. You would never think he was going through personal challenges. Instead, he focused on alleviating the personal worries others would face. I remember I was stressed about meeting my tuition payments. I worked as much as I could to make it, and he would source more clinics and private lessons into my schedule. He also helped me to set up a stringing gig. I remember he told me he owned a stringer machine and since he hated stringing, he would gift me that machine. We went to pick it up which was the funniest story on its own; we carried the stringer from a top floor to the far back of a parking lot and although it was incredibly heavy, we laughed our lungs out. Matt lifted a heavy weight of my chest by such random actions of kindness. I wish he knew how much he changed my (more…)