Karolina & Marcos: It All Started In Sydney...
Published September 19, 2012 12:00
VARAZDIN, Croatia - She dazzled tennis fans around the world for years with her on-court skills - big serve, even bigger groundstrokes, pinpoint accuracy - but since being sidelined with a left wrist injury for the last year and a half, Karolina Sprem has been honing skills of the matrimonial and maternal kind.
Sprem made her first big splash on the tennis scene as a teenager, reaching her first two WTA finals in 2003 and making that famous run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2004, surprising Venus Williams along the way. Later that year she would break into the Top 20 and for several years she was a fixture in the Top 100, among her many highlights being a third WTA final in 2005.
But unfortunately injury would get in the way - firstly a right elbow injury in 2007 that required surgery and subsequently a 10-month lay-off, then secondly a left wrist injury early in the 2011 season that has sidelined her indefinitely.
"During the Australian season at the start of 2011 the problems with my left wrist started," Sprem said. "Everyone was telling me it was an inflammation, so I went back and worked on it, but then three months later I went to the tournament in Estoril, and I tried to play but couldn't even finish the match.
"I found out I had to have an operation and the recovery would be all year. It was hard to go on the court again. It's not the way I wanted it to end."
But while one part of her life was frozen in time, another was blooming.
"I met Marcos in Sydney at the start of 2010. It's funny, because when I knew him before we weren't really friends on the tour, only saying hi or something whenever we'd see each other - but somehow everything started in Sydney.
"After seven or eight months he came to my house. My tennis wasn't going the way I hoped, but with him it was never boring. He's such a funny guy."
On May 16, 2011 in Nice, France, Baghdatis proposed to Sprem - and then on July 14, 2012 the pair had a beautiful wedding in Trakoscan, Croatia.
"It was amazing. We needed a few months to prepare everything and the days went by so fast I don't even remember half the stuff that happened - I needed to see the wedding pictures to remember it all! But it was really amazing. The wedding took place over many days with lunches, dinners and parties, and it was close to my hometown, about 40 minutes away. Parts of the wedding were at the castle, then the church, then next to the lake - at the beginning it wasn't really planned like that but that's how it ended up and it was beautiful. We had about 100 people there, just from our family and all of our closest friends."
And soon the happy couple will welcome another member to their new family.
"In the wedding pictures it's hard to see, but now I'm quite huge!" Sprem said. "We're waiting for a girl and the due date is next month, the 28th of October.
"We're planning to live in Cyprus together. It's better for Marcos - it's where he can practice, and his coach is from Cyprus as well. And after I give birth I'm hoping to maybe travel with him to his tournaments sometimes."
Is there a future as a playing mother-on-tour for the former Top 20 player?
"Who knows - maybe!" she commented. "My life feels like it has stayed the same because Marcos is playing tennis. It's like I'm living for his tennis - we have all the same things in the house, just he's the player and I'm not. I'm not practicing or training but I'm really supporting him in everything he does.
"The hard part for me to play again is starting from zero. It would be great to have a special ranking and wildcards so I can start playing WTAs right away, and not having to play ITFs, which is tough. But it seems like nothing in my life has happened the way I originally planned it, so who knows? And it's certainly motivation to see Serena winning Grand Slams at 30. It's quite amazing.
"I'll already have a title - not a Grand Slam title, but "mom"! I have the life I was always dreaming of. Sometimes Marcos and I joke about me coming back and playing again - if not singles, then maybe just doubles. Who knows?"