British tennis players aren't spoilt
It's so easy to forget that life actually exists beyond the confines of The All England Club during this period, as I become so wrapped up in my own involvement in The Championships and everything else that takes places at Wimbledon. I'm ashamed to say that I was oblivious to all the news headlines not involving the tennis – I even had to be told about Michael Jackson's death!
My main focus at Wimbledon this year was on the singles, and I will not deny that I was bitterly disappointed to lose in the first round, especially as I came so close. Iveta Benesova was by no means an easy draw (she's ranked 35 in the world, compared to my ranking of 108), but I definitely felt it was within my capabilities to beat her. I struggled with her left handed game initially, but I think I got to grips with it as the match went on. It was a tight match which could have gone either way, but I think a combination of sloppy points from me and good play from her towards the end proved decisive. However, I can't be disappointed with the way I fought...I just need to find a way to be able to turn these sorts of tight matches in my favour.
I was feeling pretty sore emotionally after my defeat, and I needed a bit of time to myself to let it sink in, but I often think the best way to bounce back is to get back on the court and try and put things right. Although, I lost in the first round of the doubles with Naomi Cavaday, I also played in the mixed doubles with Ken Skupski. It's very rare I get the chance to play mixed doubles, but I can honestly say I've not enjoyed myself that much on court for a long time and it was just the medicine I needed. I just wish I could have that much fun in my singles! It helps having an extremely competent partner, and I was happy to keep my mouth shut for the most part and just do what Ken told me to do. It was great that we won our first match, and we came pretty close in our second match against two highly accomplished doubles players in Andre Sa and Ai Sugiyama. We also did a swap of towels, which was a bonus because I've now got a mens Wimbledon towel to accompany the womens ones I'd already sneaked off court with earlier. I think this makes me a thief, but as "towel snatching" is commonplac e amongst the players, I'm not suffering from much of a guilty conscience!
The usual negative publicity surrounding the state of British tennis is dished out by the media around this time of year. It seems that the press thrive on negativity, and are ready to pounce on us at their first opportunity. It disappoints me when journalists make comments on how hopeless all the Brits are based purely on results at Wimbledon, seemingly forgetting the other fifty weeks of the year. The competition at Grand Slams is fierce, no matter who you are. Particularly on the women's side, many of us have shown significant signs of improvement and are lying at, or close to, our best ever rankings. Admittedly, I was a wild card entry at Wimbledon, but I was only four spots away from being accepted directly into the main draw, so I'm knocking on the door of being in the main draws of Grand Slams on my own merit.
I find the throwaway comments about how spoilt all the Brits are particularly offensive. I can assure you that many off us work as hard, if not harder than all the other foreign tennis players. Getting to the top in tennis is a very hard business no matter how much time and effort you put in, but I personally am trying my hardest every day to get the best out of myself and fulfil my potential. Tim Henman was often seen as a fa ilure in the public eye in this country and it seems that nothing less than a Grand Slam champion or world No.1 ranking is good enough. If my best is not good enough for the British public, then I wholeheartedly apologize! However, on behalf of all the British players, we would appreciate as much encouragement as possible, rather than the criticism intent on knocking us down.
In global terms, the Brits may not be the current cream of the crop, but we are definitely closer than we have been for many years, which shows signs of progress in the womens game in this country. This can only encourage the generation behind us, but it may be a few years yet before they start to break through the ranks.
My attention now turns to my next event, which is on clay in Zagreb. Even though Wimbledon was a disappointment for me, it has certainly not dampened my spirit and I'm more determined than ever to keep driving forward and achieve my goals.
Katie O'Brien is part of Team AEGON, the elite squad of British tennis players.