Rewind back to the late nineties and Croatian tennis player Mirjana Lučić-Baroni was smashing it. Literally.
By the age of 17 she had broken several “youngest player ever” records, including winning the first ever professional tournament she entered – the 1997 Croation Bol Ladies Open – then defending it the following year to make her the youngest player in history to successfully defend a title. She was 16 years old.
In 2000, following a series of “personal problems”, the then 18-year-old tennis prodigy disappeared from the tennis scene.
Yesterday she defeated USA’s Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open to reach her first Grand Slam quarter final in 18 years.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2017
It’s been a long time coming.
Now, I’m not a die-hard tennis fan. I’ll flick on matches in the background during the Australian Open and Wimbledon, with my interest peaking towards the finals but I draw the line at staying up past 2am to see how a match ends.
I’d never heard of Lučić-Baroni until last night, making me firmly a bandwagon supporter. But last night, watching her sheer disbelief turn into mad excitement verging on tears – and THEN learning her incredible tennis journey – it was hard not to become her biggest supporter.
Which is exactly why I think everyone needs to get behind the 34-year-old during this Aussie Open finals.