Melbourne Park claycourt champion Zoe Hives' success owes to long-term approach and new-found belief
At some stage today Zoe Hives will wander out onto her family’s 180-acre property at Kingston, 27km north-east of Ballarat in regional Victoria, to spend some reflection time with her “pet cows”.
The budding tennis star enjoyed her greatest on-court moment on Easter Sunday, winning her maiden professional title at the $15,000 Melbourne Park Women’s International on her favoured claycourt surface.
The extent of 18-year-old Hives’ celebrations included a quiet lunch with family, an excited phone call to her coach Michael Logarzo and a much-anticipated 90-minute trip home.
She is a simple country girl at heart with dreams of making it big in the ultra-competitive and unforgiving tennis world.
“That’s what people probably don’t understand about Zoe,” Hives’ mother Jan said.
“She went to a primary school with 10 kids at one stage and she’s got cows she pats at home and she goes for bike rides and grew up playing backyard cricket with her brothers.
“It was a fairly simple, calm sort of life.”
Hives’ father Neil runs their farm, while Jan – a state-level tennis player in her heyday – performs the roles of chauffeur, No.1 supporter, ever-present spectator, sounding board and chef.
They were on hand to watch Hives twice rally from a break down in the first set before beating former world No.145 and fellow Victorian Sally Peers 7-5 6-2 in the Melbourne Park final.
“For Zoe, this is terribly exciting. I believe 110 per cent in her and believe she’s going to be very good, but you’ve got to win tournaments like this to believe that,” Jan said.
“We know (Olympian) Kathryn Mitchell a little bit, up in Ballarat, and she’s a very good javelin thrower and she said to Zoe one day, ‘When you’ve done the work, the belief will come’.
“Zoe’s done a tough program and she’s got to do more, but you get the feeling she’s just got to keep persevering and I think the belief will come and that’s what’s so great about this.
“It’s just one step and gives you the opportunity now to plan and feel good for a while.”
Hives has long been on the Australian tennis radar and represented her country in Junior Fed Cup in 2012, alongside Isabelle Wallace and Naiktha Bains.
But the high of that experience was followed by a low that almost saw her lost to the sport.
Enter Logarzo, who first came across Hives in that year’s Asia-Pacific Tennis League in his role as coach of the MCC Tennis Academy.
A three-hour meeting between them months later in April 2013, after Jan asked for Logarzo’s help, proved the turning point.
Logarzo said Hives’ career was at the “crossroads” at that stage.
“She was disillusioned with some of the things around her, not enjoying it and not even sure if she still wanted to play tennis anymore,” Logarzo said.
“The first step was getting her to love the game again ... and after listening to all her thoughts, and working through things, we put a plan in place.
“I basically told her if she wanted to do this and was prepared to put in, I would do all I could to help her.”
The transformation began immediately: Logarzo made technical changes to Hives’ game and they worked on constructing a game style that would make her competitive when she transitioned to professional level.
Junior results were unimportant to both. It was always a long-term view, as it remains despite the weekend triumph.
The 20-year-old version of Hives will be fitter, stronger and, hopefully, a calmer and more positive on-court presence. She is already in the process of developing “elite” habits.
“We always knew Zoe was going to be 20, 21 before she was going to be physically and mentally matured, and we still think that,” Jan said.
“You see ‘Dasha’ (Daria Gavrilova) and she’s strong mentally – really strong.
“Zoe’s got to get all that going herself, but she’s a good, honest, straight kid and we hope it all goes well for her.”
Logarzo has got to know the Hives only a small, trusted group are privy to and that is a significant reason why he is willing to do everything possible to help her succeed.
He even regularly hosts her at his home to reduce the number of times Hives has to make the three-hour round trip from Kingston to St Kilda for training sessions.
“Zoe’s your typical country kid; quiet, unassuming, very loyal, but at the same time very determined, a perfectionist, headstrong and feisty,” Logarzo said.
“Give her a challenge – no matter how high – and she’ll do everything and more to reach it.”