Stephanie Vogt: Getting That Moment Back
Published December 27, 2012 12:00
BALZERS, Liechtenstein - Sometimes life gives you one shot, one opportunity - sometimes life can take that moment away, too. But for Stephanie Vogt there was another one coming, and though she wasn't able to capitalize on it, just taking the court was a win, and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Vogt was born and lives in Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries in the world, and one not known for tennis. But through her parents, Vogt got into the sport she would eventually dedicate her life to.
"The national sports are skiing, or soccer for guys - tennis is not really a typical sport here," Vogt said. "I did a lot of sports when I was younger but I really got into tennis after my parents took me to a tennis club where they were members at. I started playing more and more and got better and better.
"Liechtenstein is a very rich country but we have very little money in tennis, and our federation isn't very strong - so when I was young I got special arrangements to travel around with the Swiss junior team."
But that special arrangement couldn't last forever, and Vogt knew she had to find a longer-term solution.
"At home I couldn't get any further, so when I was 16, I moved to Hungary to train with Zoltan Kuharszky," Vogt said of the famed coach, who has worked with the likes of former World No.1s Jennifer Capriati and Ana Ivanovic, among many others. "When I was 18, I was No.220 in the world. I was about to play WTAs and I was given a wildcard into the Beijing Olympics - but then I got injured."
Vogt suffered a patella injury and had to go back home and undergo surgery.
"I was out for a long time. My patella is a bit flat, so the chances were higher I would get the injury. The WTAs I was going to play and the Olympics were all taken away by the injury - I knew it would heal, but I also knew it would take time. It ended up taking one and a half years to get back to normal.
"So I went back to school, and I finished high school with very good marks."
Missing the opportunity to play the Olympics was particularly tough. "I was really disappointed," she said. "That injury forced me out of the life I had - everything in my life was tennis until that point. And the Olympics weren't the only thing - my whole situation changed. Mentally it was very, very hard."
After finishing high school in 2011, Vogt rededicated herself to the sport she had always loved, and she played her first full season in 2012. And it was in 2012 where Vogt was given that moment again.
"I got the phone call from an official from Liechtenstein that I was going to get the invitational wildcard for the London Olympics. It was a very, very special moment. I can still remember everything about that moment. To represent my country in a sport where there has never been athletes from my country, it was so special. And it wasn't just that - I got to carry the flag at the opening ceremony. And I was given a late start, so I was really able to experience the opening ceremony. It was just amazing.
"My first round match was against Anna Tatishvili and she played really well. I had no chance. I was really overwhelmed by everything. To be honest I was very, very disappointed how I played - I know I can do much better. But looking back, the whole experience was simply overwhelming."
She may not have won the match, but just being a part of it all put to rest four years of Olympic heartache, as well as a much, much deeper heartache. "After what I've been through I've worked so hard, and I think my best years are still to come," Vogt said. "It wasn't just the injury when I was 18. I lost my dad in an avalanche when I was 16. I was in Australia playing junior tournaments when he died. It was horrible. But tennis actually helped me in that time - tennis gave me a way to challenge the emotions. I turned to tennis and put in all of the physical work, and it gave me structure in my life. I needed to get back to everyday life. It's been a few years since then and it's better now."
And with a new season on the horizon, what are Vogt's goals moving forward?
"My ranking is close to the Top 200 now, and I have almost nothing to defend for a long time, so I'm hoping to get into the Top 200 and play all the Grand Slams."