She'll be 37 next month, but Toronto's Maureen Drake, a tennis professional since 1991, has no plans to retire.
Tennis may have quit on her at times, but she won't quit it.
Last weekend, Drake even competed in an over-35 ITF senior women's event in Toronto, faithful coach Trust Chen Pow in tow. Former Davis Cuppers Karl Hale and Andrew Sznajder also competed in the event, but it's a rare occurrence on the women's side.
View Larger Image
Toronto's Maureen Drake, serving in the 2003 U.S. Open, has always done things her way. After being out of the sport, the 37-year-old would like to again qualify for the U.S. Open.
"It was kind of funny. They made a huge deal out of it," said Drake, who was approached by tournament director Irwin Tobias back in December. "I love to play, so why not? It's here in Toronto, and I'm not really travelling."
Yes, Drake lost a game. But only one, in three matches as she cruised to the title. There was a little prize money, though it's probably equivalent to one day's per diem at Wimbledon.
Drake had basically turned the page on singles a year ago. But suddenly, she got the itch again. She played in the qualifying of a $50,000 event in Vancouver last July, won her three matches, and made it to the quarterfinals of the main event.
"I surprised myself, because I hadn't been playing singles," she said. "Or maybe it was watching the (2007) U.S. Open. Sometimes you watch and you say, 'I'm so glad I'm not playing.' But that didn't happen."
Drake began working with Tennis Canada fitness coach Dennis Lindsay in December, and entered the qualifying of a $75,000 tournament in Midland, Mich., earlier this month. She won two rounds before losing to Canadian Sharon Fichman 6-4 in the third set.
Sounds good, but it moved her ranking from No. 697 to No. 659, and won her exactly $382.
So the problem is twofold. First, her singles ranking prevents her from getting into anything but the lowest-tier events. Secondly, there aren't any in Canada, so the cost of travelling to play them, in an attempt to build her singles ranking back up, is a major stumbling block.
Drake has won $780,000 in her career, which began in 1991. You might live on that, but you don't have the travel and accommodation expenses of a touring pro.
Then again, Drake has always done it on her own.
"I never had any coach on the tour with me, always travelled by myself, although it would have been nice," she said. "I had no sponsors or financial backing, but I was able to cover my expenses, usually ending up on the plus side, more often than not."
The WTA Tour is also tightening up the rules on tournament entries, computer points awards, and even doubles eligibility.
"I still think I can do it. I don't know about top 100, but my goal was to try to make top 250 and to make the U.S. Open qualifying this year," Drake said. "I would like to play a couple of tour events in July, in Slovenia and Stockholm. But do I really want to grind it out for three rounds in a $25,000 Challenger?"
In the meantime, Drake is teaching at the Greenwin Tennis Club in Toronto. It will take a lot of lessons, at $62 per hour, to buy those plane tickets.
Drake's story would make a powerful movie. Her father, August Koprivnik, coached her until she was 14 and travelled with her for several years after that.
"I didn't have a good support system growing up; my dad was so negative with me, abusive and stuff," she said. "Is it really worth it to screw up your kid over a tennis ball?"
She was an emotional, self-destructive player on the court in her younger days, and she didn't get much support from Tennis Canada, either.
These things can be a little political; ask Greg Rusedski.
They even made her play the qualifying at the Canadian Open in 1999 even though she was ranked No. 52, and the top female player in Canada.
"I was never in Tennis Canada's good books. I didn't kiss their ass," Drake said.
She spent years searching for that positive mentor, that role model. A decade ago, she thought she found it in Miami with a Jamaican brother-and-sister team; she was a failed former player, he a failed former sprinter.
"I wondered, 'Are you trying to help me, or help yourself?' " Drake said. "They pushed me so hard, but for their own needs. A lot of pressure came with it. I couldn't deal with it. I couldn't have a life."
There was a broken engagement to a Moroccan teaching pro in 2005. And now, perhaps a final comeback.
Who knows? Drake has always been a late bloomer. She reached her singles high of No. 47 at the relatively advanced age of 28. And her best doubles ranking, No. 77, came at age 35.
There are no regrets.
"I've been doing it since I was five, and I knew I wanted to be a pro at 14," Drake said. "There was never a question in my mind. Never. I love the travelling, and love the playing.
"I've been fortunate. No injuries, some good results," she added. "I don't plan my life. I'll continue teaching, and see what the next move is.
"I still can compete with those young players. I just have to get in better shape, work on movement and explosion."