We never know what each new year will bring, and 2019 was a game of two halves for me.
Twelve months ago I was heading Down Under for what might have been Andy’s last Grand Slam. His hip injury had become too painful to bear and he was faced with the dilemma of whether to have the surgery that could prolong – or end – his career.
Today I’m packing to watch his brother Jamie in Melbourne and while it has now been announced that Andy will sadly not be playing, it has still been a year with far more ups than downs for our family.
Andy’s is still building up towards full capacity, but anyone who watched his Resurfacing documentary will know just how much this comeback means to him and how hard he works to give himself a chance to succeed.
Jamie changed doubles partners in May which was a tough – and risky – thing for him to do, especially mid-season.
In tennis, and any sport, it is always best to enjoy the good times because things can change so quickly. Our happier days came along with the realisation that Andy’s surgery had worked and he was finally pain-free and in a position to dip his toe into competition again. He defied the odds by winning his first tournament back – the doubles at Queen’s Club in June with Feliciano Lopez.
In September, Jamie won the US Open mixed doubles for the third successive year to become the most successful British player in the modern era, having won more Slams than anyone else.
Then Andy, just a few weeks into his singles comeback, won the European Open in October. That triumph could only be topped by the arrival of Teddy, my third grandchild, a week later. His birth crowned a much happier second half to the year which brought so much promise as we head into 2020.
This year has been very busy for me, professionally, and has involved a lot of overseas travel as I’ve worked towards building a bigger tennis workforce, with a particular focus on women.
When I turned 60 in September my plan was to cut back on my commitments, but there are so many opportunities to work in other countries and get more involved in empowering women both within my sport and in business. I’ll never forget a wonderfully wise Scottish woman, Caroline McHugh, telling me during the 2012 Olympics: “When you have a voice and a profile in sport, you must use it to motivate, engage and empower women.”
One of the highlights of my year was the Everywoman Awards when I heard stories of entrepreneurial success from women in different areas of life and industry – I was blown away and it ignited a spark in me.
In 2020, I’d like to spread my wings to share my experience more widely. If more successful women in every field can do that we stand a much better chance of developing the female workforce to start taking on some of the top jobs traditionally filled by men.
Within my foundation we are starting a project encouraging our female coaches and volunteers to find someone that they can mentor and grow. That way, we’ll reach the summit all the sooner.
It’s refreshing to diversify as my life has been saturated by tennis for so long. That’s why I like to do different TV shows such as Catchphrase and Antiques Road Trip as I get to meet different people and live in someone else’s world for a little while.
If there’s one thing I’ve become more aware of since turning 60 it’s time. My two nieces turned 17 the other week and I can’t help but wonder where the years have gone. I want to be selective about how I use my time and be a little more selfish about it.
I say yes to a lot of things as I feel it’s the right thing to do or because people will expect me to be there. Almost always it’s for good causes, but now I want to be with my family and friends more and that means learning to politely say no.
There has been great feedback to Andy’s Resurfacing documentary, and many people commented on how refreshing it was to see an athlete share both their physical and emotional challenges. It’s only by sharing how we feel that we can begin to find a way forward. The charity See Me organise a Time To Talk day each year on the first Thursday of February with the goal of encouraging everyone to do something to help others open up and end the stigma around mental health. Getting involved is a good starting point for groups, schools and businesses to create opportunities for people to talk that can be extended through the year.
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