Ambidextrous Aussie alert
Monday, 21 June 2010
One to watch for gatherers of curious facts at Wimbledon on the first day of the 2010 Championships - Jarmila Groth, playing in the fourth match to take place on Court 15. The Australian, ranked No.92 in the world, is ambidextrous. Her opponent today, Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic, will need to watch out for Groth playing strokes with either hand. The technique seems to pay off, judging by last month's French Open where she reached the fourth round.
Groth, aged 23, says she is able to "do anything with left or right, either way" - from eating, to shooting a basketball, to kicking a football. In other words, she is the same with her feet as her hands, and anyone who has tried to kick a ball with the "wrong" foot will know how very strange it can feel.
"To play a left-handed shot, it's kind of normal for me to do," she says. According to Groth, her ability is rooted in the fact that she was born a month prematurely, weighing about two-and-a-half pounds (1.2 kilograms), and could not use the right side of her body.
"I was losing weight," explains Groth. "They didn't give me a big chance to survive." But survive she did, and in the subsequent years her parents did all they could to help her regain the use of the right side of her body, mainly through massage, and the situation gradually improved. Groth - born in Slovakia but an Australian since her marriage to ATP player Samuel Groth last year - gradually became perfectly ambidextrous.
"I'm weird, I know," she smiles. "Even when I eat, my knife and fork are on the opposite sides. When I play basketball, I throw left or right. If I play football, I kick left or right, whichever side comes to me." She adds that while her right hand is stronger, she can hit a whole range of shots with her left.
"Obviously the ball doesn't go as fast, but I can still sort of judge it, how to lob," she says. "I can play overheads and serves. It's not that hard."