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Exclusive: Jordanne Whiley on Wimbledon, Winning Returns and Women in Sport

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Jordanne Whiley is unique when it comes to British tennis players.

That’s because she is the only one to hold the elusive calendar Grand Slam - winning all four Slams in the same year - a feat which she achieved in doubles back in 2014.

And now not only back at Wimbledon but also back on a Grand Slam stage for the first time since 2017 due to taking some time out to have a baby she’s just as determined as ever to make her mark on the tour. Jordanne took time out to speak to me, Gemma-Louise Stevenson ahead of Wimbledon this week. 

“I’m really excited to get back because I already feel like I’ve had too much time away from Wimbledon,” Whiley explained." "I feel at home there and I think just because I’m a wildcard and unseeded with Yui (Kamiji) in doubles it isn’t going to change my attitude towards winning it. 

“Yui and I, we are going there to win a fifth Wimbledon doubles title together and I am going there to prove that I’m a singles contender as well as a doubles one.

“For me, the comeback was all about singles and I’ve really really honed in on it because a singles medal is the only thing I don’t have in my cabinet so that’s the one thing that I really want.”

On a new outlook
Equally impressive as Whiley’s return to the tour seeing her make it to seven out of a potential eight finals is the way she seemed to have come straight back in and conquered the mental side of the game.

“My outlook has massively changed now on tour and taking time out to have Jackson was probably the best thing I ever did for my career,” the British No.1 said. “I’ve pretty much been playing tennis non-stop since the age of like 11 or 12 and it had just consumed me and was leaking over into my personal life too whereas now I am a tennis player when I am training and competing but when I get home I’m a mum.

“Obviously I’ve improved things in my game like my forehand and my serve hence why my comeback has been so successful but I think the main thing that has really helped has been my shift in mentality like the way I perceive things and how I handle losses.”

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On reuniting with an old friend
The Wimbledon wheelchair tennis draw will see Whiley once again partner up with Japan’s Yui Kamiji and this year they will be seeing if they can lift their 5th doubles title together at The Championships, their previous four coming back-to-back between 2014 and 2017.

Theirs is a doubles partnership though based on more than just two talented singles players combining to make a pretty formidable force, as Whiley describes it when her and Kamiji pair up it’s like the “perfect matching up of two puzzle pieces.”

“We’re just the best of friends,” Whiley explained. “And she’s also the most honest person I know and that’s why I love her because I always know I’m going to get a straight answer.

“Like the other week in France, she said to me you’re more cuddly now you’re a mum and I asked her, is that because I’m fat, and she just came straight back and said yeah.”  

The Championships - Wimbledon 2017 - Wheelchair Event Day 1

On a potential future role within Tennis
Since her comeback Whiley has not only been making waves on the tennis court rocketing up the rankings, getting herself back into the top ten and winning multiple singles and doubles titles on the way, she also could arguably claim another title - that of the number one supporter of the British junior squad of up and coming wheelchair tennis talent.

At the World Team Cup, where she was also competing herself in the women’s team, she could be heard cheering them courtside and seen updating the world about the progress and how proud she was of them on social media as they went on to win silver.

“I just love our junior team so much - they are just amazing kids with amazing talent,” she said. “Yes, I have said that Tokyo is going to be my last Paralympic Games but I don’t want to completely come away from the game and I still want to be involved because of them.

“I see myself in so many of them, I even said to Louise Hunt that within the juniors girls that Abbie (Breakwell) is the Louise and Ruby (Bishop) is me of about 10 years ago.

“And at the World Team Cup when they lost in the final I was so heartbroken I could have cried because I’ve been there, I’ve felt the pain and they have more to come in their careers and I want to be there to help them.” 

2016 French Open - Day Fourteen

On women in sport
Beyond the tennis court and her own place as a role model for young girls and women the British No.1 also believes that in the age where social media influencers become celebrities it’s also important for girls to have access to more female athletes whether that be on traditional or social media.

“With society, the way is now where little girls are told and often feel pressure to wear make-up and a certain kind of clothes or have their hair this way or that way, female athletes can also influence them by showing them that being a girl is also about being strong and healthy,” Whiley explained.

“I saw a thing on Twitter actually and it was a picture of a line-up of little girls in Disneyland in princess dresses and then in the middle of them was one girl in boxing gloves and I thought yes I love that because not all girls want to be princesses and for me taking part in sport is about more than just the sport itself, it’s also about the person that it makes you.

“Before I played tennis I was shy, I’ll admit I was weedy and I really didn’t have much confidence and sport brought all those things out in me.

“And now since having Jackson it’s shown me that it’s not just young girls that need to see female role models, it’s women of every age because if you look at me yes I’ve had a baby and yes I joke about the fact that I’ve gained weight but I’m still an athlete - it’s still possible and I think it’s really important to show that when you have a baby, or even if you’ve been injured, your career is not over it just changes.”

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