ZIMBABWE’S most successful female tennis player, Cara Black, is considering coming out of retirement to play competitive tennis next year.
The 32-year-old, who retired from the game last year to start a family with husband Brett Stevens, however said the decision depended on how their four-month old baby boy copes with the situation.
Report by Albert Marufu
Standardsport caught up with Black and her Australian husband who are in the country to show their four-month-old baby Lachlan to their relatives.
“I miss playing a lot and started practising three weeks ago with a view of playing again,” said Cara, who made a career prize money of US$6 515 415 after turning professional in 1998.
“I will see how my body recovers and will play a few challengers tournaments in October to see how it goes since I now have the baby.
Cara said her biggest motivator was the prospect of playing again in the Grand Slams.
“If I do play again, I would like to start in January next year so there is not enough time. There are a couple of challengers’ tournaments that I can play in October just for me to test myself and see how it will impact on the little one.”
She said if all went according to plan, Stevens, whom she married in December 2006, would be taking care of the baby while she takes to the tennis court.
“My husband will travel with us and will be looking after the boy all the time. That will be great. I will definitely have a new coach, but my husband will always be there as he helps me on the mental side of the game.
“I will just test in a few tournaments and work on getting my ranking back. I would like to go with a new perspective and hopefully do even better. I have a home now so I just have to enjoy my game without putting myself under pressure at all.”
On her new status as a mother, Cara said she was enjoying it.
“He (Lachlan) is obviously a lot of work, but I am enjoying it. It is a big adjustment as I find myself being a full-time mother. He is such a good little boy, such a gift from God,” she said.
Stevens expressed preparedness to take up the new role of nursing the baby while Cara is on the tennis court.
“If she is happy to do it, I will not push her. We already have a good life without her playing tennis again. He (Lachlan) is the priority now. However, if she plays again, I will be Mr Mummy. I will start looking after the baby, but I will not be breast feeding,” he said with a chuckle.
On Cara’s chances of emulating Belgian Kim Clijsters who came out of retirement to win the US Open in 2009, Stevens said; “It will be tough because of the break, but it will be a lot more fun because of the presence of our baby.”
Cara, who won all the four Grand Slam mixed doubles — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open — expressed disappointment at having failed to represent Zimbabwe in the doubles at the Olympic Games and in the Fed Cup.
“I would have wanted to represent Zimbabwe in the doubles at the Olympic Games or the Federation Cup but could not. If I come back, maybe we might be able to start playing in the Fed Cup as there are a number of exciting players coming through,” she said.
On whether they have plans for the kid to play tennis as well in future, Stevens said the decision rested on their son.
“For sure he will be hitting (the ball) from an early age. Tennis is a great game in terms of coordination so we will push him into the sport earlier. If he wants to play it, maybe he can play doubles with Wayne’s boy or mixed doubles with Wayne’s daughter,” said Stevens.
Stevens added that youngsters who wanted to take up the game should not only give their best shot, but find out if their parents can take it as well.
“Zimbabwe has exceptional talent and if they can get scholarships for free education, then that is great. Anything is possible, but you have to find the right way to do it,” said Stevens, who also worked with Byron and Wayne as their fitness trainer.
Cara, the three-time Zimbabwe Sportsperson of the Year, represented Zimbabwe at the Olympic Games in 2000 (Sydney, Australia), 2004 (Athens, Greece) and 2008 in Beijing, China.
Cara and Wayne also reached the final of the 2004 French Open and the semi-finals of the 2003 French Open and 2003 US Open.
If she manages to come out of retirement, Cara would join the list that includes Justine Henin and Clijsters.
Clijsters won her second US Open title after coming out of retirement. Pictures of her child joining her in celebrating her victory are still fresh in a number of fans’ mind.
Cara won five Grand Slam women’s doubles titles in her career: Wimbledon 2004, 2005 and 2007; Australian Open 2007; and US Open 2008 in a 13-year professional career that started in 1998.
She reached the 2000 US Open women’s doubles final with Elena Likhovtseva.
She also won three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, two of them partnering her brother Wayne: the 2002 French Open and the 2004 Wimbledon Championships); and the 2008 US Open with Leander Paes.