Sammy Speaks : Episode 6 – Dissecting A Champion

“Sammy Speaks” is a 7 part blog series with South Asian Games Gold Medalist – Sathwika Sama. Over the course of the next seven weeks, Sathwika will share details of her journey/experiences in the international tennis circuit

Other articles in the “Sammy Speaks” series can be found below –
Episode 1 – Stay Indoors, Train Indoors
Episode 2 – Recovery
Episode 3 – Technology In Tennis
Episode 4 – The Future(s)
Episode 5 – Media & Sponsorship

It was the 27th of September 1991. Stere and Tania gave birth to a girl child in Constanta, Romania. When she was four years old, she started playing tennis after attending one of her brother Nicolae’s coaching sessions. At fourteen, she decided to dedicate her life to tennis. At sixteen, she left her family, in the small, ancient city of Constanta, Romania, and moved to Bucharest in order to train at a professional academy. At 17, this move paid off and she became the Number 1 Junior player in the World. She won the Junior French Open in 2008 and subsequently turned pro. 

She wasn’t your typical tennis player: She was only five feet six inches tall and she lacked big serves or powerful groundstrokes. However, she made up for it with unrivalled stamina and speed. Her game was based around constructing her points with pinpoint accuracy which takes immense skill and control. The bigger problem here though was she had mental demons. According to her coach, “She became her worst enemy quite often” and “she fought more than one opponent”. She went nearly a year, from May 2012 to March 2013, without winning two matches in a row at the professional WTA level. Did another junior talent just go to waste again?

Simona Halep after winning the 2008 Junior French Open

After hiring an immense coaching team, this young lady was back and ready to take on the world. All she had was fight, courage, court craft and now had hired one of the world’s best coaches in Darren Cahill. All she wanted to do was win a Grand Slam for her family in Constanta. This girl was soon Top Ten and in a French Open final in 2017. One set and 4-0 up, ready to win her maiden Grand Slam – she lost. A few months later, ready to battle again and playing great in the 2018 Australian Open final, a few points away from a Grand Slam title – she lost again. Two heart-breaking losses in quick succession. 

Yes, of course she came back – she since has won two Grand Slams – the French Open in 2018 and then Wimbledon in 2019, in the most impressive fashion I have ever seen. The latter of them by demolishing Serena Williams in the finals. Yes, she became World Number 1 and this lady, I guarantee, will never give up. Yes, she is my hero, the one and only Simona Halep. 

Halep, after winning the 2018 French Open

Simona’s journey to the top was not an easy one. At the age of 17, she underwent a breast-reduction surgery, a frightening procedure in order to relieve back pain and get better. Every day, she went to the gym and shed blood, sweat and tears. When her friends went to parties, she went to sleep.

Simona is a classic example of the saying that – “It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” We can have all the indoor centers, infrastructure and technology. However, there are some things – grit, determination, dedication and a hunger to succeed – which money cannot buy. These are in-built and are what differentiate a player from a champion.

Keep smiling as the sun will shine tomorrow 😊 

I will see you next week for the Finale.

Have a safe weekend,

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