For most of us, dreams are an abstract phenomenon, and only a select few will be lucky enough to turn these dreams into a reality.
I always felt like I was dreaming every single time I walked into the All England Club as a kid and attended Wimbledon. The oldest tennis tournament in the world soon became the central figure of everything I wanted to achieve in my future athletic career.
At six years old, I watched in complete awe as one of the all-time greats, Roger Federer, took the court. Watching him play solidified what I already knew to be true in my heart. I wanted to be a professional tennis player.
I wanted to compete against the best players in the world for the greatest prize on the planet – my own dance on the Wimbledon court.
You could say tennis is in my blood.
My dad always played, and I remember hitting the courts with him to work on my swing at just two years old. I guess living only five minutes away from a local tennis club helped on that front.
Up until I was eight years old, I was a regular at the club before moving on to an academy for a chance to work with other talented players my age.
After moving up the tennis rankings in both England and internationally, it was time to figure out the next move.
College tennis wasn’t necessarily on my itinerary at the time, to be honest, because I wasn’t very educated on the matter. It didn’t really have that good of a reputation where I was from. It was connected with partying more so than honing your craft.
And I wasn’t really interested in any of that stuff. I was simply focused on maturing as a player enough to pursue a professional career. Even if that meant skipping out on college, I was determined to see my dream come to fruition.
It wasn’t until I moved my training to Poland when I started to change my tone on the whole college idea. Why? Well, that’s where I met coach Marcel Du Coudray – a person that would literally change my life.
I’d usually travel out there and stay at his house for about four weeks at a time. He had two younger kids, and it was feeling a lot like a home away from home.
Not to mention, it was the first time I really started to make strides in my abilities.
That’s when the idea of me attending a college and developing among like-minded peers suddenly became a legitimate option. Marcel was educated on college sports and gave me a different perspective. And truthfully, that’s really when my mindset shifted.
Plus, Marcel had a tie-in with University of Alabama tennis coach George Husack. Connecting the two of us allowed me to gain some first-hand knowledge of the college tennis system and environment.
There was an instant connection after our first conversation to the point where we stayed in contact. Coach Husack would periodically call Marcel to track my progress and gage my interest in joining Alabama.
Soon, I was enthralled with the whole coaching staff, but more importantly, I really valued George’s personal relationship with Marcel.
And well, shortly after, I committed.
The whole journey to Alabama felt like a completely new chapter in my life. It was a new adventure where I really didn’t know what to expect.
In Poland, I was only a few hours away from home. Now, I was an entire ocean away.
Even though I was used to the lifestyle of being on my own, it’s different when I had to take care of everything for myself. It was an intriguing, yet terrifying, form of freedom I’d never felt.
It forced me to mature very quickly.
The opportunities that came along with the journey made growing up worthwhile. Seeing the facilities on campus was jaw-dropping.
The facility at Alabama compared to what I was used to back home was downright ridiculous.
My first year was spent sitting on the sidelines due to ineligibility. While it was disappointing to miss out on legitimate playing time, the whole situation surprisingly ended up being one of the best things that happened to me.
Rather than moping around, I made it up in my mind that the only way I could help my team was to improve myself.
It wasn’t easy out of the gates playing alongside such a talented group, but I eventually started to settle in and find my confidence. I made it a point to get a little better each and every day.
The results from that hard work paid off with me winning an award for the 2019 ITA Southern Region Rookie of the Year.
It would have been great to roll that success into 2020, but sadly, everything came to a standstill with sports shutting down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The news of everything being canceled was unbelievable and shocking.
Perhaps the most disappointing part was how well we were doing. We felt like our growing confidence as a team would have led to a great result.
And now we’ll never know.
Health is obviously the most important thing, and safety should come first when it comes to athletics and real-life situations.
After a couple of days to let everything digest, you realize this is so much bigger than a tennis season, and it’s impacting everyone around the world.
But one major step back isn’t stopping the goal I set for myself a long time ago.
An opportunity to compete at Wimbledon is still my dream, and I plan on following through to the best of my ability.
I’ll set my sights on working as hard as I can to be ready for next season, and then it’s on to planning my next trip, bringing me one step closer to my dance.
A life’s journey from a mere spectator to a professional athlete won’t be easy, but there is no questioning the worth of feeling that hallowed court beneath my feet.
A chance to compete against the best tennis players in the world and stand where so many all-time greats like Federer stood—it’s an ambitious dream I’d gladly chase until I can turn it into a reality.