Carol Zhao, a 28-year-old Canadian tennis player, is experiencing a mix of emotions as she qualifies for her first Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon. Sitting in the media area at the Roehampton site, where the qualifiers take place, Zhao struggled to put her feelings into words. Unlike many tennis players who turn professional at a young age, Zhao took a different path by excelling in the NCAA college circuit before making her professional debut. She quickly climbed the rankings, reaching a career-high of 131st in the world. However, an elbow injury and the COVID-19 pandemic slowed her progress.
Qualifying for Wimbledon has been a long-awaited dream for Zhao, who has attempted to make it to the Grand Slam several times in recent years. She expressed her joy and gratitude for finally achieving this milestone, especially considering the competitive nature of the sport. Zhao acknowledged that as she gets older, she realizes there are many deserving players in the tennis world, making her qualification even more special.
What makes Zhao’s qualification for Wimbledon even more unique is that the qualifiers do not take place at the All England Club itself. Instead, they are held at the Roehampton Tennis Centre, located just a short drive away. During her crucial third-round match against American Coco Vandeweghe, Zhao played in front of a small audience of about ten people enjoying their sandwiches and drinks on the grass.
Starting Monday, Zhao will enter the prestigious All England Club through the front door, marking a significant milestone in her career. She expressed her excitement about the experience and the feeling of leveling up after winning in the qualifiers. To commemorate her qualification, organizers presented Zhao with a small trophy. While aiming for the ultimate prize may be ambitious, Zhao acknowledges that her journey has only just begun and she is ready to continue working hard.
As Zhao prepares to compete in Wimbledon, she reflects on her unique journey and the emotions that come with achieving her dreams. Her story serves as an inspiration to aspiring tennis players and a reminder that perseverance and determination can lead to remarkable accomplishments.