Jordanne Whiley: The Perfect Year
After making history as the first British player to win the calendar grand slam in 2014, the Lord’s Taverners ambassador and wheelchair tennis star spoke to The Long Room about an unforgettable season ahead of her first appearance in the 2015 Australian Open.
2014 has been an unbelievable year for you. At the start of the year did you ever think you could win all four grand slam titles?
At the beginning of the year, I thought about it and told Yui [Kamiji, her doubles partner] and was half-serious. Then we actually won the Australian Open and thought, “Oh we could actually do this” and from then on we were really serious about going for the grand slam. Our belief grew throughout the year.
How special did it feel to win Wimbledon, especially after previously losing in the final?
I won the bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, which was one of the best moments of my life, but there’s something really special about winning Wimbledon. I can’t quite describe it. I’m British, it was on my home turf, all my friends and family were there, so it was special for me.
Describe your emotions when you won the grand slam.
There was a lot of pressure building up to that after we won Wimbledon. We knew that there was one more to go and obviously the media were making a big deal out of it and we didn’t want to disappoint. I would have felt really bad if we had lost; there was a lot riding on it. When we won, the first emotion I felt was relief that we’d done it and didn’t have to worry any more. After that it was pure happiness.
How would you describe your relationship with playing partner Yui Kamiji?
Yui and I are best friends. We just love each other so much. We started playing together at Wimbledon 2013 where we reached the final. She didn’t speak English at all but we just clicked in each other’s presence. After that, we decided to play together some more. Now she speaks really good English so I can go out to dinner with her and have conversations. It’s obviously helped our tennis – the more we got to know each other the more we could communicate and the stronger the bond was on court as well.
How important is the Lord’s Taverners work in giving disabled young people an opportunity to participate in disability sport?
A lot of people don’t know where to start and then when they do start it can be quite expensive. You need different equipment to do different sports – people don’t have that kind of money in their back pocket. The Lord’s Taverners is there to support and help out. They bought my first tennis wheelchair for me. That cost around £3,000 – my parents certainly didn’t have that – and started off my tennis career. Something like that is so important because, without it, you can’t even start.
How can sport help in the lives of those who might not believe they can take part in physical activity?
I always loved trying out different activities when I was younger. I finally found a sport which I was good at and I really enjoyed. It’s definitely important; it gives you that self-confidence and independence as well. Sport is not just about achieving on court or on the pitch; it actually gives you a lot of life skills that non-sporting people may struggle to find.
What’s the next challenge for you? Do you have one eye on Rio 2016?
I’ve always got my eye on Rio because that’s the ultimate goal. My main focus next year will be getting my singles ranking up and try to do a second year running of a doubles Grand Slam. It’s going to be hard work!
Jordanne is currently competing for both the Women's Wheelchair singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open in Melbourne and you can keep track of her progress here.