Women’s Tennis Exclusive: Rising British star Katy Dunne talks playing on Centre Court, fighting self-doubt and returning to fitness in 2020

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Once plagued by the feeling that she was not accomplishing what she should, Katy Dunne still cannot anticipate the negative thoughts emerging in her head, but now she is able to play freely and that fear of losing has been replaced with a dream of Grand Slam success.


Tennis Background:

Born in Hemel Hempstead, the 24-year-old Brit did not find her love for Tennis in the conventional sense. Brought up into a sporting family, Dunne never watched tennis as a child but got dragged along by her mum who loved the game. “Honestly I kind of preferred other sports” she confesses. “I used to love Gymnastics, Hockey was another one.” 

Dunne did not choose Tennis until she was 14 years old but realised she first had a talent when the made the equivalent of nationals for her age-group at under 10’s. Asked if she stills find time play other sports, she joked “I don’t anymore. It’s kind of sad. I’m too tired from training nowadays. I once tried to join a hockey club, but I lasted like two sessions.”


The Fear of Failure:

Having won her first ITF title in November 2013, aged just 18, Dunne has won 6 titles in all but is still unsure about her success.

“I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied. When you grow up, they tell you that you should be a certain ranking and it’s like a one-way pathway. I’ve struggled in the past with feeling like I haven’t accomplished what I should’ve, so it’s taken me up until the last year or so with my coach to have a healthier relationship with tennis.”

Since her professional debut, Dunne has won titles in both singles and doubles every year, except 2016- where she finished as a runner-up on two occasions. Despite these consistent victories, she has struggled with self-doubt to the point of shaking during matches.

Dunne thanks her coach for helping her to overcome these struggles. She has been with him for over four years now and has benefitted from sport psychology training to help make herself feel more at ease with the game. “I love it again now” she stressed. “But there was definitely a period of time where I didn’t.”


Centre Court:

After qualifying to play Wimbledon for the first time in 2018, Dunne was drawn against the number 12 seed Jelena Ostapenko in the first round, where she made her centre-court debut. Without hesitation, she is happy to proclaim that this was her favourite memory in tennis and a day she will never forget.

Asked if she felt more or less pressure for this match because there was no expectation, Dunne confessed “It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been for a match. When I first got told I was going on the centre, there was just this fear of losing 6-0, 6-0.”

Despite the nerves, Dunne realises now that these feelings are natural and remembers telling herself “this is my dream, so I’m not going to allow other people or myself to affect how much I enjoy this match.” 

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She is happy with how the match went in the end and so she should be. Although she ultimately fell short of victory, Dunne treated the centre court crowd to some thrilling action, generating two set points in the second set which she eventually lost in a tie-break.

She is still amazed by the surrealism of the moment and has not watched the match back fully yet, but has taken huge confidence from both that match and her performances last year.

“I’ve shown myself that I can do it in the last couple of years when I’ve played girls of higher ranking and not embarrassed myself. Last year before I got injured, I won my biggest title, the 60k and felt to myself, I can do this. I felt that more than when I played Ostapenko because I was backing up my performances all week and dealing with all the pressures.”

The Future:

Unfortunately, injuries blighted the end of Dunne’s 2019 season, just after she had been victorious at the Torneig Internacional Els Gorchs in Catalonia. Right now, she feels fit and ready but still has some way to go before she is back to where she wants to be.

Her goal for 2020 is therefore difficult to determine. “For the first three months I just want to feel fit and healthy, and then after that work towards US Open qualifying and Australia in a year’s time."

Having played the Australian Open as a junior, she considers Australia her favourite place to play Tennis and admits it will be difficult watching some of her British friends compete in Melbourne next week. Both Harriett Dart and Katie Boulter have qualified for the competition, with each of them having won doubles titles with Dunne in the past. 

“I’ll definitely lookout for the other girls and message them if they’ve had a good week, but it has been really difficult the past eight months watching it when you really want to be out there.” For the time being then, Dunne’s focus is on herself.

She is off to Tunisia this weekend to play a tournament that will be her last stage of rehab. She is excited but also gutted because it means she might miss Love Island because of the time difference. Finding this balance between rehab and relaxation has been key on the road to recovery, and Dunne hopes that as her form, fitness and feelings of confidence begin to return, her next Grand Slam competition isn’t too far around the corner.

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