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Overcoming Adversity: A Fortnight at Wimbledon

‘We will not forget the past nor wish to close the door on it.’ It is a familiar passage for those who have struggled to contain life-altering obsessions.

It applies to all the players at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, though they may be yet to reach completely desperate crossroads.

Some players have had a history of drama, heartache and struggles. They then learn to balance with a determination that would seem impossible by most standards. Some have had easier routes and yet they, too, cannot erase the past. Either way the ones that rise to the top — and we’re seeing the cream of the crop no matter if they are ranked above 100 up to No. 1 — have put aside their obsessions, their wants, to concentrate day-in and day-out on a game they love and desire to conquer.

The Williams’ sisters route to fame and fortune is well known but should never be forgotten. Their impact on the game has been too great. They’ve risen to international celebrity status outside of tennis, leading women to believe they too can rise, can fight, and can attain dreams and goals that were but wisps of thought darting across their minds before they left the confines of home … if, indeed, there was one.

The tennis world’s eyes rest upon Wimbledon this fortnight, a place where the vision of the Elena Baltacha Academy takes center stage. The academy was conceived and built upon a vision, which is articulated best on its website: “EBAT knows that the future of British Tennis will be found in the numbers that we can attract to our wonderful sport; with this in mind our aim is to develop strong relationships with our infant and primary schools and through these links promote our sport and offer tennis training opportunities to all.”

Judy Murray, one of the primary patrons of the academy, has always supported its initiatives even before Elena died of liver cancer at the young age of 30, in May last year.

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Lleyton Hewitt, having played his last Wimbledon singles match on Monday at 34, stayed true to his fierce course even after two hip surgeries and another operation that required a fused toe. He could easily have bowed out years ago, but his grit and bearing on tennis was not at its end. He ushered in the baseline game, winning Wimbledon in 2002 and the US Open in 2001, against the quintessential serve-and-volleyer, Pete Sampras.

Last year at the Tennis Hall of Fame tournament, Hewitt told the press he would retire when the Australian Davis Cup team was plump with possibilities. As we’ve seen this fortnight, it is. Sixteen Australian players are in the main draw this year at Wimbledon, which is a 21-year high.

Hewitt is fixated on carrying the message, so much so that he teams up with Aussie mates for doubles. He’s playing alongside 19-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis at Wimbledon this year. They marched through their first-round match in fine Hewitt style — coming from two sets down to win 8-6 in the fifth.

Follow me. I will show you how to persevere.

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Roger Federer’s persona seems lightyears from any notion of trauma or major disappointment. But no one is immune. As a teen, Federer had a reputation. He says he was a brat, with a short temper and arrogant manner. He smashed rackets and generally embarrassed himself and fans. Yet a week before his 21st birthday his coach since age 10, Australian Peter Carter, was killed in a car accident.

Federer credits Carter as the man who, “moulded him as a man and player and remains the most influential coach of his storied career,” Tennis Australia reported earlier this year. “Early on for me, Peter Carter was a very important man just overall for my character.”

Rarely have we seen Federer back away from this life lesson.

Novak Djokovic and his family sought cover in the bowels of Belgrade as it was bombed in 1999 — surely a traumatic event that might have moved his 12-year-old mind to stumble and hide within itself, bypassing his young dreams to be a Wimbledon champion. As we can see he has used his fighting qualities to his advancement, this year seeking his third title at the All England Club. He remains the odds-on favorite to accomplish just that.

Arthur Ashe, the first African-American to win Wimbledon 40 years ago, suffered from, yet overcame, barriers based on his skin color to break ground. People were shocked yesterday when Milos Raonic took the first set from Tommy Haas in 17 minutes. Looking back, Ashe whipped Jimmy Connors’ senses in just 19 minutes during the first set of their storied final in 1975.

Ashe went on to become No. 1 in the world, using his position to enhance his push for equal rights around the world, first through anti-apartheid activism and later through the attention he brought to HIV/AIDS. Ashe died from the disease in 1993.

His predecessor, Althea Gibson, won in 1958 as the first African-American woman to raise the Venus Rosewater Dish. Serena and Venus Williams have each raised it five times since.

Explore any corner of sport and find similar stories. Athletes are amazing in their determination to excel and to use adversity to propel them.

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After his loss today to Dustin Brown, who is ranked No. 102 in the world, Rafael Nadal told the press that he, “has to accept what happened and move forward.” He said he made, “too many mistakes.” HIs remark is obvious. However, he will come back only through his honesty and acceptance. This is what it takes for pros to overcome major mental blocks, which is certainly overwhelming Nadal at the moment.

Tennis on tennis’ terms is difficult at times. For those who use the past as their springboard, the limits may be unforeseen.

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About Jane Voigt (89 Articles)
Jane Voigt is a recognized tennis journalist who has covered the pro game for over 12 years. She created and owns DownTheTee.com, and has contributed to TennisGrandstand.com, WorldTennisMagazine,com, TennisWeek.com, Tennis Week Magazine, TennisServer.com, and Tennis.com.

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