Ashley's Back, With Baby On Board
Published March 29, 2010 12:00
Thanks to a certain Belgian, moms are big buzz on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour these days, and at this fortnight's Sony Ericsson Open another playing parent joined the ranks. Ashley Harkleroad, who is married to former ATP touring pro Chuck Adams, gave birth to her son, Charlie, on March 30 last year. We caught up with the 24-year-old former world No.39 - who has a protected ranking of No.72 - after her first round match in Miami against Alicia Molik.
Ashley, how does it feel to be a mother?
AH: It's amazing, you just never really know exactly how much you can love someone until you have a child. It's unconditional… even when he's upset! I'm having a blast… I've wanted to have a baby since I was a baby, and I just feel like my dream's come true. You'd think I'd be more stressed out, but actually the opposite is true. I'm so happy, and if anything my husband and I are having more fun.
How long did you wait before you started practising again?
AH: I didn't wait very long at all - I hit the courts after a month and a half - and I'm hoping I haven't hurt myself because I still have some pain. Sometimes if I change direction too quickly I feel a little pull… but I think my body is recovering, slowly.
How do you feel about your game right now?
AH: We're tinkering with things a little bit at the moment… trying different racquets, different strings. I feel like I'm stronger and more wiry, especially in my upper body, but I feel I need to put about five pounds more muscle on, and I also need to put some muscle on in my lower body, in order for me to play at this level. But I just wanted to come here and see how I felt - and I felt good. Although I lost to Alicia 61 61 I thought I was hitting the ball pretty well, and I enjoyed being out there again.
Do you draw any inspiration from other mothers on Tour with your comeback?
AH: When Kim Clijsters won the US Open I cried. I just could not imagine… I want to learn from her how she balances it all out - that's been a little bit of a problem for me because I try to do 100 percent of the tennis and 100 percent of the mommy work, so it would be nice for me to learn a little more balance. Kim obviously put in the work, and set the bar high.
Was there a particular reason why you decided to come back in Miami?
AH: This is where I had my 'accident' in 2008 [Harkleroad was rushed to hospital after an ovarian cyst burst]. I was worried I would not even be able to have children one day, so it's ironic I came back at this tournament. But I've tried to give my body enough time to recover after birth. Practically speaking, this was also the last tournament I could come back and keep my protected ranking.
Are you planning on a full scale return to tennis?
AH: At this moment, yes, but plans could change. I've signed up to play World TeamTennis in the summer. After Miami I have seven tournaments left under my protected ranking, so I'll play those out and see how it goes. But I don't want to use my quota on clay and grass events - I'll wait till the Tour gets back to hardcourts. Right now I'm just not ready to put in a full, full commitment, but I have a year to use up those tournaments. WTT will give me a lot of matches, Charlie will be a little older then and hopefully I'll find it easier to be apart from him! I just don't want to regret not giving it a go.
What are the most memorable moments from the first phase of your career?
AH: I made it to the fourth round at Indian Wells in 2008, and felt that I was really finding my game, having a great time and starting to really, really love tennis.