*MUST READ*,, an article about lower ranked players of wta!!!
"You probably won't have heard of Sarah Borwell. A quick survey of the office resulted only in utter silence and a blank look of incomprehension and vacant idiocy. But that's what happens when you work alone at home.
Sarah Borwell is a tennis player - the British No6, to be precise, ranked 282nd in the world. At a time when you can't move for a profile of Roger Federer or a shot of Ana Ivanovic in a bikini (thank God it's not the other way around) it is worth remembering that not every match is played on Wimbledon's Centre Court, and not every player sprinkles diamonds on their cornflakes. Sarah Borwell is a case in point. And, at 28, she is unlikely to make a fortune from the game.
The plan for this blog was to write about the interminable grind of being the British No6 and world No282. A life of cheap motels, departure lounges, boredom and drudgery, of failed ambition and self-delusion. An existence punctuated by misery and maxed-out credit cards. Except that the maxed-out cards are there, but the misery definitively is not.
Borwell grew up in Middlesbrough, and enrolled in a new local tennis club when she was five. She was always a sporty girl, playing hockey and football as well as tennis. Her dad was - and is - a scout at Aston Villa, who she follows passionately (her favourite player is Gareth Barry). She was at school with Jonathan Woodgate, who has remained a friend, and who has said in an interview what a good footballer she was. "I was probably better at football than I am at tennis," says Borwell, "but there wasn't much money in women's football when I had to choose which one to stick with."
Intent on completing her education, she got a tennis scholarship to the University of Houston, where she did a business degree. It meant she didn't turn pro until 2002, at the age of 23. Isn't that the age that most stars of the women's tour are burned out, retiring, or becoming fashion designers? Not really, says Borwell. An increasing number of tennis juniors are getting their qualifications before joining the tour. "Unless you're going to be like Sharapova, it makes a lot of sense to actually go out there and get an education. You can always go on the tour later on."
The tour. Many of the comedy-hat-and-union-jack brigade will be unaware that tennis exists outside of two weeks a year in SW19, but exist it does. And how. In the last 12 months, Borwell has played in tournaments on five continents, everywhere from Minsk to Nuriootpa (Australia, since you ask), Kolkata to Coatzacoalcos (Mexico). And Surbiton. "I travel pretty much all of the year. It's a pretty full-on schedule, and at my level you have to play more tournaments to get ranking points, so we're away the majority of the year. In strange places most of the time."
It sounds tough, I say, leading her down my carefully planned 'Lonely Tennis Circuit Hell' line. "Not really. There's a lot of college girls on the tour, and because we've all been to University together, we all have a different perspective. We obviously want to do well in our tennis, but we also want to enjoy the experience, and see the places that we're visiting."
"Also, we have a travel group now called the T-one-fours. That consists of some of the British girls - Anne Keothavong, Mel South and Olivia Scarfi - along with some Americans and South Africans. We tend to be really supportive of each other, and watch each others' matches. We try and live together when we're away at tournaments. We were all in Australia for two to three months together, and it was one of the best times I've had. We all did well with the tennis, and we were all supporting each other, and each night we'd cook. It was like having a family travelling with you. It certainly makes it more enjoyable and interesting when you're in these strange, small country towns somewhere in Australia. Occasionally I like to go home, but I think we're all the same. We get itchy feet and we're ready to go to the next place."
But, for all her travelling, the biggest tournament of her year is, of course, Wimbledon. With a serve measured at 114mph, her favoured surface is grass. Indeed, her biggest ever win came in the first round of the Championships, two years ago, against world No60 Marta Domachowska. Her reward? A tie against a certain Ana Ivanovic. "All I remember about playing Ivanovic is hitting one of my biggest serves down the 'T' at the beginning of the match, and she returned it as if it had come over the net at 60mph. It was slightly daunting."
The Serb won 6-1 6-2, but Borwell is beguilingly upbeat about the experience of playing someone who would become the World No1. "It's brilliant. I've played Sharapova as well. When I do finish, just to be able to look back at the girls I've actually played will be incredible."
In a world where sports stars are routinely accused of greed, the respective earnings of Ivanovic and Borwell so far this year tell their own story. Ivanovic has won $2,464,858; Borwell $9,023. Taking into account travel and living expenses, she has clocked up mounting debts over the years. "I've done a lot of juggling of credit cards," she admits.
Wimbledon offers the opportunity to make some much-needed cash. "I always hope that I'm awarded a wild card at Wimbledon, which helps me pay off my debts or continue for the next year." This year, she received a wild card for the Wimbledon qualifiers, where she succumbed to the world No121 in three sets. However, she has a wild card into the main draw in the doubles, where she is partnered by 17-year-old Jocelyn Rae. "She has a massive serve as well, and a really good volley, so on grass anything can happen. She's about 6'2", so I imagine it won't be easy to pass us."
Is she never tempted to jack it all in? "Everyone has their moments, when you're stuck in a small town in Mexico on your own and you've just lost, and you haven't made much money. You wonder, 'Why am I doing all this?' But then you get to travel, you see the world. And I look at my friends who have been stuck in 9-to-5 jobs for the last six years. And I think 'I've got another 40 years to do that'." Far from planning to jack it all in, she is intent on focusing on the doubles in the next few years, playing with a college friend and hoping to break into the world's top 50.
Those who ask why a 28-year-old keeps playing in a sport where she will never rise to the very top do so because they don't understand what sport is really about. It's too easy to forget that it's not about money, but about passion, competition and fun. In a world dominated by cynicism and commercialism, Borwell's Corinthian enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air, and something to be applauded.
So, if you happen to be on an outer court at Wimbledon in a couple of weeks, keep an eye out for Borwell and Rae, two big-serving British girls, in the women's doubles. Give them a cheer, and hope that nice girls can finish first. But don't feel sorry for Borwell if they lose. She has too much perspective for that. Just don't expect her to be happy if Gareth Barry leaves Villa this summer."
its an excellent read!
Jake Gyllenhaal Anne Keothavong brit no. 1