19 Jul 2017

Haddad Maia's journey a story of grit and resolve

News Article

By Jamie Renton

Photo: Paul ZimmerBeatriz Haddad Maia (BRA)

Where some gifted young players have found the transition from juniors to the professional realm a seamless leap, Beatriz Haddad Maia’s tennis journey has been a story of grit and resolve.

The 21-year-old Brazilian was a promising junior, honing her talents alongside the likes of Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh across the globe at the ITF’s most prestigious junior tournaments and the junior Grand Slams.

But while Bencic and Konjuh have gone on to achieve lofty heights in the professional game (Bencic had climbed into the Top 10 by her 19th birthday; Konjuh is an established member of the Top 30 – and both have quarterfinal appearances at the US Open to their names), Haddad Maia has made a far steadier climb.

Every player matures at a different pace, of course, but Haddad Maia, now ranked at a career-high No. 81, has had to overcome her fair share of obstacles.

“For me it was really hard work,” admitted the Sao-Paulo-born lefthander. “I had some injuries. I put my shoulder out when I was 18 and until last year I was still having some problems. I had surgery last year to fix that. Then there’s my back - I had surgery on that when I was 15.

“My transition was a little bit intense,” Haddad Maia added, with quite the understatement. “I was playing but then I had to stop for some months.”

Haddad Maia had to watch from afar as a number of players she grew up playing with and against accelerated ahead of her in their professional careers.

“I know Bencic, Konjuh, (Antonia) Lottner, (Ipek) Solyu, (Louisa) Chirico – all the girls who are now Top 100-200. Some girls play very easy so they can manage the transition very easily, but some girls need more work," she said.

"They might be Top 100 in two or three years, so it’s an important moment for them coming out of juniors and they need to work extra hard. It was really hard for me, because I needed to work but I was injured so it was very difficult.”

In May, Haddad Maia was named as one of 12 recipients of the new $50,000 International Player Grand Slam Grants financed by the Grand Slam Development Fund to assist with her progress in the game. It’s had an almost instant impact.

She promptly qualified for her first Grand Slam at Roland Garros in June – five years after achieving the feat in Paris as a junior – and then became the first Brazilian woman to reach the second round at Wimbledon since 1989, taking Simona Halep to task in round two.

“When I heard the news that I was one of the girls in this programme I was very happy,” said Haddad Maia. “Now, it’s more easy for me on the court. You are more relaxed. You know that everything outside of the court is okay.

"Now I have a way to bring my coach, to bring my physio to tournaments. I don’t have to think, ‘I need to win because I need money’. I’ve been more relaxed and I think it’s helping me be happy when I play.”