Maureen Drake: One Mo'ment At A Time
Published March 12, 2012 12:00
TORONTO, Canada - Talented, unique and intelligent, Maureen Drake - or, as she was referred to by those who knew her best, 'Mo' - was a fixture on the WTA for over two decades, wrapping up a long career last year. So how is the Canadian doing since the fast-paced blur that is the pro tour?
Drake started playing tennis at age 5 on her neighborhood courts. Coached early on by her father, August, she worked her way through the ITF Circuit and WTA qualifying and qualified for her first Grand Slam at the 1990 US Open, where she lost first round to Steffi Graf. Her best WTA result was reaching the semifinals of Cairo in 1999, where she upset World No.10 Patty Schnyder along the way and turn heads with some very unique on-court fashion...
"It was a nice tournament and very well organized." Drake said. "The official hotel was right across the street from the pyramids the room I stayed in had a view of them, which was incredible! In my quarterfinal match against Patty I wore a gold and leopard print outfit for the first time, which my team at the time had designed. After the match, the interviewer told me I looked like Cleopatra!
"I wore the gold and leopard print outfit one other time against Martina Hingis in Miami in 2000. I didn't want to wear it in that match because I knew it would get a lot of attention, which I don't like, however my team said I had to wear it to get their design noticed. When I came out on the court, all cameras went on me, the crowd whistled and someone yelled 'C'mon Goldilocks!' since I had bleached blonde hair too... Martina told me before the match she liked the outfit and that leopard print was in fashion. I played in a WTA event in Zürich that year and I was suprised to see a photo of me in the outfit in their magazine. It was also in a German paper, a Russian tennis magazine and in South America too."
Drake wasn't just making the most headlines in her late 20s, she was also playing the best tennis of her career - she had her best Grand Slam result at age 28, reaching the fourth round of the 1999 Australian Open, and her next-best at age 31, the third round of 2002 Wimbledon, where she took the first set off Venus Williams before falling to the two-time defending champion in three.
"I felt she was holding back in the first set, I guess maybe she underestimated me," Drake said. "I watched the match afterwards and John McEnroe was supportive of me, saying I was doing well for myself. I think John could relate to me, having knowledge of my temperament on court similar to his.
"If I could have learned early on how to control the mental and emotional side then I obviously would have had more success. But I'm thankful I did have help to work on that, which in turn made me have some success later on. I worked hard for many years before that and didn't want it all to be in vain.
"Although I was a late bloomer, I don't have any regrets."
Drake kept playing through 2010 then encountered something she had largely managed to avoid in her career - injury. "I'd never had major injuries, just little nick nacks here and there. Then leading up to a $50,000 tournament in Toronto I twisted my foot - it hurt, but I could walk and do exercises. I wasn't worried since the injury happened a few weeks before the tournament, which was enough time to recover, but then 10 days before the tournament I pulled my hamstring. I thought it strange to have two injuries in the span of three weeks.
"I tried practicing before the qualifying but couldn't do fast explosive lateral movements, so I pulled out of the singles. I did play in the doubles, but only as a favor to a Canadian junior who asked me to play. "I believe everything happens for a reason and because the hamstring injury was taking a long time to heal, I thought, 'Maybe this is a sign for me to stop playing?'
"That's when I decided it was time to retire."
Drake has been coaching since retiring from the pro tour. She is also involved with a Canadian spray tanning company called Tropic Spa Inc., which she invested in before its inception in 2005. "They developed a Home Mist Tanning system. The ingredients in the tanning solution are all natural with no bronzer or chemicals and it actually helps your skin. For more information, their website is www.tropicspatan.com - the product is available for purchase on their site.
"I've been coaching someone who is very passionate about tennis and wants to reach her full potential," Drake continued. "She recently competed and reached the third round in the ITF Senior World Championships Women's 50 category. Ultimately I want to work with someone who wants to play on the pro tour or who is currently playing on the pro tour. I really enjoy coaching those who have determination, discipline, high work ethic and a willingness to learn.
"Above all, I'm taking it one mo'ment at a time!"