Several top Australian women have spoken about the barriers they have faced during their tennis journey as they hope to inspire younger girls and women across to continue pursuing their goals as part of the 'Play for you' campaign by Tennis Australia.
World No. 112 Maddison Inglis says, "You’re definitely going to go through times where you’re not going to love it as much. You won’t love the travel and the training every day – but when you are doing well it’s so rewarding, and you have to go through those times to have good times.
Obviously it’s a really long journey being a tennis player. I did well when I was a bit younger. I played the Australian Open when I was young and while I appreciated the opportunity at the time, (it was) nowhere near as much as I appreciate it now.
I also found (there was) a lot of pressure after that. If you want to make it a long, fun and successful career you’ve got to enjoy it. There’s no rush – the stat is that you peak in your late 20s, so if you’re not doing well now, keep putting in the work and keep enjoying it and I think it will come.
(I’d tell myself) to be competitive on court but also have fun off the court. I think that’s the most important thing for me as a player. Astra Sharma, who studies medicine while working on her tennis, commented, "I played any and all sports when I was growing up – basically anything my brother wanted to do, I would try and follow him.
It’s not very usual for many girls to be that active but I was doing little athletics, I did swimming, I did soccer and I did tennis. Being able to kind of latch on to my brother, I saw that a lot of girls didn’t have that – being too athletic or like being too overly involved? in your sport was a bit more frowned upon, you could tell in schools the perception was like a little bit off.
There are so many amazingly talented young girls out there that just aren’t as encouraged as (much as) a young boy. If a boy is really into AFL that’s very like ‘oh we’ve got to take him to footy every weekend’ but for a girl it’s a lot more ‘Oh would you like to do arts? Would you like to do gymnastics’ Stuff like that where it’s not quite encouraging them.
Tennis has given me the life that I have. If I didn’t have tennis I wouldn’t have been able to go to college, wouldn’t have been able to do what I do now. It has just opened up pathways even past tennis – friendships, studies, relationships.
It’s so worth it to pursue what you love if that’s what you really want to do. Priscilla Hon, who was part of the Australian team that reached the 2019 Fed Fup Finals, commented, "I started doing home-schooling at a young age.
I didn’t have that many friends – more when I went into tennis (and) I was always around the tennis girls. So Kim (Birrell) and Lizette (Cabrera), I’ve known since I was nine years old. That was big for me, the social part, because a lot of girls I feel like they drift away because they miss that social part.
When I was around 16 or 17, I went through a stage where I didn’t want to play anymore, and I took a little bit of time off. I wasn’t playing very well and then my coach didn’t really believe in me. It was a lot for a teenager – when your dream is to become a tennis player, that it’s kind of getting knocked down.
I just had to find a good team around me that actually believed in me and then that kind of took me out of (that difficult period). There was a video when I think I was maybe turning 10 (when I said that) my dream was to play the Australian Open.
I didn’t see that until last year and obviously I’ve achieved that. Just having these goals in my mind, reaching them, and obviously playing Fed Cup was a big one. Being able to do that is really fulfilling."