Becoming a mother can change many parts of your life but it hasn’t stopped wheelchair tennis player Jordanne Whiley from achieving greatness, writes Nicola Kenton.
Returning to the court following the birth of her son Jackson in January 2018 was something Whiley always hoped to do with Tokyo in mind, but to win a Grand Slam title just 11 months into her comeback was a pleasant surprise.
Whiley clinched the women’s doubles title at the Australian Open alongside bridesmaid Yui Kamiji last week, beating Diede De Groot and Aniek Van Koot 6-2 6-4.
It was the pair’s third crown at the tournament – their first since 2015 – and Whiley’s 11th Grand Slam title but to make the victory even sweeter, it came just days after Jackson’s second birthday.
Being away from her son to compete is something Whiley is still adjusting to but the 27-year-old is confident her new-found role as a mother will reinvigorate her tennis career as she goes for glory in Tokyo and beyond.
“It has changed everything. I feel as though I’m a completely different person,” said Whiley. “Having Jackson changed my perspective on life, he made me realise that tennis is what I do, not who I am.
“I let tennis consume my life and I became a person I didn’t like. Now I’m a tennis player again but above all I am a mother, role model and a positive influence on my son.
“I’m kinder to myself and have more empathy to others which has made me a better tennis player and person.
“I am able to see things more clearly and learn from my mistakes constructively. I owe it all to my son who has made me love myself and my career again.
“I hate being away from him especially when it’s for two to three weeks at a time. It’s hard and I feel guilty about it.
“I worry that he thinks I’ve abandoned him, but he’s only two and I know he doesn’t feel that way. He stays with my mum who he has such a special bond with, so I know he’s happy when I’m away.”
With Tokyo just months away, Whiley is hoping to right some wrongs from the last Games in Rio where she fell short in the singles and claimed doubles bronze alongside Lucy Shuker.
The singles medal may have eluded her thus far but with the added motivation of Jackson this time around, the three-time Paralympian is convinced she will be able to do him proud.
“It would mean everything to bring Jackson back a medal. I think I would literally cry for days,” added Whiley.
“I wasn’t in a good place pre-Rio and after I fractured my wrist in the second round of the Games, I was emotionally distraught.
“I wanted to come back with my new outlook on life, new coach and an overhaul of my game style, to give it everything I’ve got for Tokyo to try and achieve my life goal of a singles gold medal, but with no regrets, whatever the result.
“It would be even better to win gold, with my fiancée as my coach and my son to witness it... maybe that’s what I’ve been unknowingly waiting for all this time.
“Maybe my time just hasn’t come yet, but I’ve never given up on my dream, and that’s the message I want my son and others to realise, regardless of if I win gold or not.”