Marina Erakovic: 'I can't hit balls anymore; my body is too broken'

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Marina Erakovic: 'I can't hit balls anymore; my body is too broken'

Back in December, Marina Erakovic became the new New Zealand Fed Cup captain, ready to share her experience with young and upcoming players from this small tennis nation. A former top-40 player in the most decorated player from her country, playing in the Fed Cup since the age of 16 and delivering 18 singles victories under the national flag.

Struggling with a back injury, Marina retired in December 2018 and stayed away from the tennis court ever since, with her body unable to endure more efforts, even on a recreation level. Now, Marina is ready to lead her country in the Fed Cup Group II Asia / Oceania event in Wellington, with New Zealand facing Guam, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Turkmenistan.

Two pools of four teams will determine the finalists who will battle for the Asia / Oceania Group I promotion. "Simon approached me in November and I told him I'd be at uni full-time next year," Erakovic said.

"I could do January and February, but after that it will be based on communication. Just checking in on the girls and if they need a phone call or some advice that's fine, but otherwise, my time is minimal. They were happy with that, so it's been an exciting month or so.

I was down at the ASB Classic watching the girls play, I was watching Paige, Valentina and Erin and I've been in touch with Emily Fanning and Kelly Southwood came up to Auckland for a bit, and I got to see her play. For my first day, in December, I watched Erin and Valentina practice and it was nice to listen and give advice, to see if that helps at all.

Whether it's about whom they're playing, how they're feeling, their schedule, their strokes, or the way they're hitting the ball. I remember back in my day; I wish I had someone like that, who was on the Tour and knew what it was like.

Some of these girls have already played a bit on the professional circuit, but it's been fulfilling for me. I think I'd be happy in a limited helping capacity. But I don't think I'd want to step into any coaching and I don't think I ever will.

When I agreed to this with Simon, I told him, 'I'm not hitting balls.' If you want to get someone to hit with them, that's great, or they can hit together, my body is too broken. But I definitely would be keen in the time I have available to help in anyway I can, especially the younger ones, the ones who are trying to break through and get onto the professional stage, because it's really hard.

It's going to be amazing because it's in Wellington. I think that will really spur the girls on and no matter at what level or stage you're at, it's the same type of stuff you're dealing with. The pressure, the nerves, the tactics and having a fighting spirit and attitude.

All of that stuff is the same, but t's more about showing these girls a bit about what's it's like to play for your country. Tennis is a lonely sport, you're always alone, you're always playing by yourself and this is an opportunity to help one and other, represent your country and play for a greater cause. That's something I've enjoyed about Fed Cup and I hope that comes out in Wellington."