My open letter to top player Dominic Thiem

Training in France

“Dear Dominic,

After reading your last statement I was wondering what would’ve been my career, and therefore my life, if I was in your shoes. Yes, what is it like to be Dominic Thiem?

So I started picturing myself what it was like to have parents coaching tennis when I touched a tennis racquet for the first time at age 6 and instantly fell in love with it. As I grew up in the outskirts of Algiers in a very modest family with parents who had nothing to do with tennis, I can’t help thinking that it could have helped…

But I don’t blame you for it. And I stopped thinking about it because after all, we don’t choose where we are born. But I realize now how blessed I am to have parents like mines that I love the most and would trade for nothing in the world.

You know, in a country like mine it’s not easy for a women to be an athlete and I will never be thankful enough to my parents for supporting me and all the sacrifices they have made for me to pursue my dream… If you only knew Dominic…

But after all, even if I didn’t have my parents as a coach, we can at least count on the local facilities! Oups… Did you know that in Algeria the ITF juniors are very (very!) rare and there are not a single ITF pro, ATP or WTA event? There’s not a single coach at the international level? There’s not even a single indoor court? I don’t know how it was for you, but for us over there, if it rains for a week we practice our backhands…in the gym!

And you know, I am not even talking about the quality of the facilities and the courts…We didn’t even know what court we were playing. Is it grass? Is it clay? “Africa” like they say… But don’t get me wrong. This didn’t stopped me from building my own way and even be one of the best players in the world at the age of 14. And I won my first WTA points by winning a 10K at this age! Quit impressive, no? And like you I reached the heights of the ITF juniors rankings. I didn’t reach the top 10 but 23d in the world. Not too bad for an African isn’it? It was so unlikely that many journalists called me “the miracle of tennis” and it’s not even a joke. Very few young African has done it before they say, and nobody in my country…If I was part of your magical world back then I would probably have drawn the attention of many sponsors and the federation would have taken care of me. But it didn’t happened that way. Sponsors you say? Adidas? Nike? Wilson? Prince? Head? They don’t even exist in Algeria…

A part from of few equipments and support from small local companies, I only received the minimum for covering my participation for the slams in junior, and you know, in Africa, an athlete’s budget hardly makes his way into his bank account… … If you know what I mean?

I was wondering what could have changed for me at that time if I was part of your close circle, shared the same environnement and rules, like being able to decide when it’s the best time to go pro for example? What are the rules? Nobody have a clue about that in Algeria! What impact would have made a fair budget on my career? What?! It would’ve change my whole life! Like the fact that I cherish the day when I’ll be able to afford a gift to my parents… I’m dreaming about this day…

So the best player of the country, on the top of the junior ranking but… Not a single penny…How ironic don’t you think? I’m not sure this would’ve happen in your country or in any other European country for instance… But it didn’t stopped me, and, you know, ( well, I’not sure you really know) “out of darkness cometh light” they say. And when everything was falling apart and leading me to end my career I was lucky enough to find a helping hand. People who took care of me and provided me with the vital minimum like eating and a place to sleep wether in tournaments or everyday life. Others help me gracefully with the equipments, and some great souls nicely supported me with my sports conditioning. My situation was hopeless. But I got back on track and did my transition to pro. However, life can be harsh sometimes, and I got injured at the worst time. A time where the ITF changed the rules. Not sure if this really affected you but…Who cares!? Financial ressources are key to get back in shape… I could really feel it at that moment Dominic… However once again it didn’t stopped me. Despite all the difficulties I coped to come back to the WTA ranking. Today I’m 21, and ranked around the top 600 WTA. I still hope to achieve my dream for which I sacrificed my childhood, my schooling, my teenage life, my family life, my friends, my financial life, birthdays, holidays, my whole life!

I’m wondering Dominic,

What it is like to have a coach who assists you on tour? a personal trainer? a physiotherapist? a mental coach? a dedicated staff? I’m living most of the time on my own. I’m a lonely lady, traveling the world generally in a 3 legs trip always looking for the lowest tickets. Sacrificing my time, trainings and recoveries just to apply for a simple visa with no guarantee to get it because, guess what? No red carpet, no free pass, no Shenguen… And I forgot to mention, I need a visa to pretty much every place I need to go (and it’s another budget for me!). I work out every possibility of the calendar to optimize the costs trying to get a maximum of points at the same time. I’m housing far away from the tournament to reduce the costs. Do you alternate Clay and hard from a week to another like I do? Do you finish your tournament with holes in shoes like I do? I always work my best to do whatever it takes to fulfill the hopes people had when I was in junior despite the lack of funding… Dominic let me ask you what does it feel to offer a gift to your parents? What does it feel to see them more then a week per year? To celebrate your birthday with them? I don’t even remember the last birthday I celebrated with my beloved ones… Yes all those sacrifices are part of the game but still, the court should decide the outcome of my career, not my finances. This – is – totally – unfair.

I’m dealing with it everyday without complaining, constantly fighting every single day, in silence… In silence, Dominic…

Dear Dominic,

Unlike you, many share my reality. Just a reminder : it’s not because of your money that we survived until now, and nobody requested you anything. The initiative went from generous players who showed instant compassion with a classy touch. Players eager to spread solidarity and find solutions to make a difference… Champions at all costs.

Dominic,

This unexpected crisis is putting us through a challenging time and revealing who people truly are.

Helping players is helping Tennis to survive. The game is noble. The meaning of sport is to distinguish the most talented, the most persistent, the hard worker, the bravest… Or maybe you want to play alone on court?

Dominic,

Told you, we did not ask anything from you. Except a bit of respect to our sacrifice.

Dominic,

Players like you make me hold on to my dreams. Please, don’t ruin it.

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