My first match was in Miami in March, 2018. I lost to Alize Cornet. I did Instagram Live afterwards and I was bawling, just appreciating being back on the court. My doctors didn’t think I’d be ready to even practise for 15 months. I came back in nine.
Now, almost a year later, my movement has improved so much. I look at Miami and I’m like, ‘Holy shit, you guys let me play?’ My husband said I shouldn’t have been playing but I don’t regret it. It’s empowering to have options. I hope I can be an example for others on that path.
I looked down and because my patellar tendon had ruptured, my kneecap had dislocated and was up in my quad.
Winning the US Open mixed doubles in September was an awesome moment because I could look back and say, ‘Damn, I came a long way’.
I get asked a lot if I’m 100 per cent. It’s an interesting question because what is 100 per cent? The knee I had surgery on is never going to be the same as my left knee, but is that OK? Can I make it my new normal? Can I make it my new 100 per cent?’
Right now, I feel like I’m moving better than I have. I’ve improved each week heading into the Australian Open, so I’m going to take that as my win.
A FASHION STAR IS BORN
I don’t know who first called me the Lady Gaga of tennis. It just kind of caught on.
Back in 2011, one of Lady Gaga’s fashion designers, Alex Noble, designed a tennis ball dress for me for the Wimbledon player party at Kensington Gardens. When I met with him, I basically said, ‘Give me some craziness that you would do for Lady Gaga and I’ll wear it on the red carpet’.
That’s what we came up with. It was a lot of fun. It was cool to see that creative process. When I find a place in my new home, I’m going to put it on display.
I’ve also been called America’s tennis rock star. I like both names! I feel like I add a little bit of funk and uniqueness and originality to the tour. Everyone jokes in the locker-room that ‘If we just go silent, we’ll hear you laugh and know where you are. We won’t even need to look’.
A lot of girls have tattoos now, but I was probably one of the first to have tattoos that were visible on the court. I had coloured hair. I wore different outfits. I guess I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. It’s my personality.
It’s how I would be if I didn’t play tennis, it’s how I am off the court. I feel like when you’re yourself in your career, that’s when you’re playing your best. It’s because you’re most comfortable in your own skin.
What you see out there is me.
I’m excited to have my own fashion line now. It just launched for the Australian Open, I’m wearing my ‘Love Down Under’ collection at Melbourne Park.
Is it wacky? I just like keeping people on their toes. I like being original. I like being unexpected. If everyone was super-colourful and flamboyant, I’d go the opposite way just because I like being different.
Fashion is fun for me. I love interesting design too; I’m renovating a house, so I’m kind of an artist at heart. It’s what I take on the court with me. I’m original, fun, and always myself.
The reaction I get has changed over the years. At one tournament, I was walking through the crowd and I heard one woman say to her friends, ‘That’s the crazy one over there’. I’m sure she was talking about me!
I’ve been pretty outgoing on my social media, so people have come to know why I wear these funky outfits. Once people saw that, they were like ‘Damn, girl, yeah, you go!’ It’s interesting because when people talk to me, they’d say, ‘Hey, you’re not as crazy as we thought’.
Now people look forward to what I’m wearing, There have been times in the locker-room where players ask what I’m wearing for the tournament. They’d say, ‘We’ve gotta see before everyone else’.
I heard one woman say to her friends,‘That’s the crazy one over there’. I’m sure she was talking about me!
That tennis ball dress and jacket were special, but my favourite outfit is the one I designed and I’m wearing right now. It’s based on my tattoos, so it’s a really personal line for me.
‘Lucky in Love’ literally took the flowers from the zen garden on my arm that’s been years in the making, and the bee on my wrist – a coach gave me the nickname ‘Killer Bee’ when I was growing up – and put them on clothes. It was a long time coming.
I’m 33 and still going, but when I finish playing tennis, if I’m remembered for my individuality and as the girl who has the record for swearing at Wimbledon without being fined, I’ll take it.
I’m going to continue to do things that fill my life with fashion, colour, fun and inspiration – it will just be a different arena. I’m happy with that.