“Until I was about 9, I hated practice. I actually had to be bribed to go, because halfway through, I would lose focus and start doing cartwheels or something else. [To help prevent that,] I would get ‘tokens’ or laminated pieces of paper, which essentially were part of a rewards system. If I could earn so many, I could then go and buy something I wanted.
“Turning pro at 14, I definitely had to grow up fast. I didn’t spend a lot of time at home because of traveling, and I had to be really responsible with making sure things like homework got done. But I was also pretty lucky — being at a [training] academy until I was almost 18 gave me a way to do what I loved without being totally isolated. I got to go to dances and socialize, which made me feel like I still had a ‘normal’ teenage life.”
“100% — especially last year. Coming back from [a second wrist surgery in 10 months], I had a span [prior to the 2017 Open] where I was struggling to win matches and just wasn’t feeling super confident in myself. At one point, I [felt] like I was never going to win a tennis match ever again. It would be crazy to say that you’re never going to feel like that, but you just have to pick yourself up and remember to keep going.”
“Every single match that I’ve ever played, I’ve been so nervous. Last year, before the US Open final, I was literally almost in tears, although I had already played six matches on the exact same court. And then, obviously, I was very sad after [losing]. But overall, it was another proud experience for me. [My competitor,] who is also a friend, helped me through [the loss], and the next time I’m in that situation, I know I’ll be able to handle it a little bit better.
At one point, I [felt] like I was never going to win a tennis match ever again.
“It’s funny, because in tennis, I don’t usually hear, ‘Oh, you’re still so young; you have so many more years ahead of you.’ But I think now [within the sport], you definitely find your stride at an older age. So for me, I’m constantly trying to balance expectations of what I want with giving myself time to figure it out.
“To have someone who has not only [reached No. 1] but dominated [the sport] on her way there — while continuing to be an inspiration for women and men across the board — say that has definitely felt nice and has been a big motivator for me.”
“I got involved [back in 2016] because I wanted to do something to make the world a little bit better — instead of just dwelling in some of the crappy things that [were] happening. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Having two younger sisters, I wanted girls everywhere to know that there was someone who was listening — someone who understood their struggles.
I’m constantly trying to balance expectations of what I want with giving myself time to span it out.
“Growing up, I never experienced bullying personally, but I went to school long enough that I would occasionally see it happen and step in to stop it. At 14, when I turned pro, I started receiving a lot of online bullying — whether it was people calling me fat or ugly or saying that my teeth were weird. Even today if I lose a match, it gets really dramatic very quickly.
“As a whole and across the board, we have to get better, because it’s very obvious that [women] aren’t [treated] equal. Having a platform means that I won’t just sit back and say everything’s okay. I think the biggest thing is addressing [inequality] — not telling [professional athletes] to ignore the issue and ‘go play with a basketball’ or something.”
I wanted girls everywhere to know that there was someone who was listening — someone who understood their struggles.
“The campaign’s mission is really about doing what you want and whatever makes you happy. It’s about showing that you can have multiple sides, and neither side is more important than the other. For me, that’s being able to be as silly as I want while being a total badass at the same time.”
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing. If I’m a good person, people will remember me because of that — not because I hit a tennis ball over a net.”