11 April 2019

You can take the future even if you fail

Earlier this week, Britain’s Tara Moore produced one of the greatest comebacks in tennis history; from 0-6, 0-5, (30-40) down she turned it around to eventually win her first round match at ITF World Tour Event in Sunderland. It's the kind of on-court heroics we can all dream of, but it also got us thinking about what life on the Tour is really like. Intriguingly, part of the answer came this week in the form or a remarkable series of tweets from a Swedish player who quit her job to follow her dream...

Marina Yudanov is one player who knows all about the highs and lows of seeking to make a living from the game. A promising junior, she won the Swedish U16 National Championships in 2005, but her teenage years then got in the way and she hung up her racket for what she thought was for good. But in the summer of 2017, after nearly ten years away from tennis and at the age of 27, Marina quit her full-time engineering job at Volvo Trucks to pursue her dream of becoming a professional tennis player. 


In less than two years, Marina has climbed inside the world’s top 600 and is now ranked the sixth best women's player in Sweden.

Life at this lower level of the tour however, is a far cry from the glitz and glamour of the Grand Slams that we see on TV. This week Marina decided to reveal all through her Twitter feed: "I don’t normally write in detail about my own tennis life, but I’ll try this once".

The result is an eye-opening account of a week on the ITF circuit and trying to make ends meet: 

Traveling solo

I’ve been in Japan alone for 4 weeks, my flights were in and out of Tokyo where my first tournaments were (because return tickets are cheaper obviously), and this last 25k tournament was in Osaka (3.5hrs train ride).

Losing in qualifying and changing flights

I played qualies here, losing 9-11 in the super tiebreak in the final round on Monday. After losing, I rebooked my flight from the original Sunday departure, so I didn’t spend 6 more days in Japan without any matches, but I still may do some sightseeing. New flight booked for Thursday evening.

A slice of luck, but what about the new flight?

Next day (Tuesday) I find out that I have made it into the draw as a Lucky Loser and am drawn against the WTA 355. It’s been a long while since I beat someone in the top 400 but I’m just very happy to get another match at this level, they are not easy to come by.

Defying statistics

I win this match in two sets and my next match is now on Thursday (the same day my rebooked flight is), because the rest of the R1 are played on Wednesday.

A washout puts play on hold

On Wednesday it rains and no matches are played, meaning those last R1 matches are pushed to Thursday and my R2 match is therefore not played first on that day. My flight is at 9pm from Tokyo, 3.5hrs away by train. The R1 matches start at 10am. I am 2nd match on. If I lose, I may (barely) make my flight. If I win, I need to buy a completely new ticket because the rebookable option was a one-use thing. I checked ticket prices, 600€.

The unwanted wait to get on court

The first match on my court unexpectedly goes to three sets, and I’m looking at the clock... We go on at around 12:30. I end up losing in three sets and am bitterly disappointed because I felt I should win.

Forget the loss (for now), there’s a flight to catch

We finish just before 3pm. I hurry to get my strings from the stringer, my cash deposit for practice balls, my prize money. I have no time to walk to my airbnb to take my luggage so I get help from the tournament staff in calling a Japanese taxi.

No time to shower and change, the clock is ticking

The taxi comes, we go to my airbnb, I rush to get my stuff, get back in the taxi, we go to the train (Shinkansen) station, I get off, I’m still in my tennis clothes, I have my tennis bag and my big traveling trunk (4 weeks’ worth of stuff) and my huge winter coat in tow. I run to get a ticket, I am very hot and bothered and my head is full of static from anger at the loss. I buy a ticket from the machine and rush up to the platform which thankfully is very close even though the station is huge.

Making the train with 3 minutes to spare

I get on the train at 4:07pm, it leaves at 4:10pm. According to Google Maps this gets me to airport at 7:15pm. The wifi doesn’t work so I just have a small cry sitting among the Japanese people on the train in my sweaty tennis clothes with defeat still ringing in my brain.

Reflections at the airport and the long journey home

I am sad for losing today, happy for winning one round, sad this trip was so expensive, happy I will probably make my flight, sad that I’m making my flight because I lost, wondering if knowing the absurd cost of a new ticket affected me in important moments in the match. I am also hungry because I didn’t have time to eat and annoyed because I don’t want to travel for 24hrs in my tennis clothes, and not looking forward to how stiff I will feel when I finally arrive (obviously did not have time to stretch and cool down). And also, I am bummed that I couldn’t see more of lovely Osaka or have time to buy souvenirs for my loved ones or meet that family friend in Tokyo.

All part of the dream

But when the dust settles and my bitter tears from losing dry up, and even now after composing this thread, I remember and feel unbelievably lucky to have been able to fly to Japan for tennis and to have seen the sakura blooming. I might never, ever come here again!

The reaction

Marina's open and honest thread has received lots of support from all over the world, with tennis followers from Australia, Argentina, America, France and Germany all offering their spare rooms if she ever needs a place to stay and a club from Derby the use of their facilities free of charge. British player Tara Moore also weighed in on the conversation "Wow inspiring stuff Marina I’m glad/sad you made your flight and hope you have another chance to visit Osaka".

Do follow Marina @marinastennis, instagram.com/marinayudanov and tell her we are rooting for her!