When Croatian tennis player Mirjana Lucic-Baroni broke into tennis’s top level 20 years ago, her name was declared in the same breath as those of her fellow teenage phenoms Martina Hingis and Venus Williams.
Mirjana won the Australian Open doubles title against Hingis in the year 1998 at the age of 15 and reached to semi-finals of the Wimbledon singles draw.
“I think that life matures you, because here it’s a little bit unrealistic. We are all — or most of us — really successful when we’re really young. And then you have a lot of people that are ‘Yes sir, yes ma’am,’ to all your craziness. They don’t allow you to evolve as a person, or to mature. Even when you act silly, people won’t say anything because you’re a tennis star,” she said.
From 2004 to 2007, Lucic-Baroni has participated only in six tournaments, struggling to finance her anemic career. The 34-year-old Croatian tennis player Lucic-Baroni said “I wasn’t able to travel; I was stopped at the moment I didn’t want to stop. I felt kind of a little bit of unfinished business.”
“I still wanted to play on a stage like this, on a full court like this. Come out, play, have these wins, be in a quarterfinal of a Slam. Have a chance to fight for a semi-final. Those are incredible moments. Those are incredible accomplishments. I knew I’m able to do that.”
Her return has had ebbs and flows, with the distress of Simona Halep, top-five player of US Open in 2014 and also the 2015 French Open representing recent highs.
This week, Lucic-Baroni looks to be thriving, perhaps, she said: “It was really difficult in the beginning when I started again, because I felt like I belonged somewhere at the top, and I wasn’t there.”
“I was fighting really hard, clawing my way back. This also taught me a lot, all these years coming back. Now, I’m really at peace with where I am in my life, where I am in my career. I think it probably does show a little bit on the court as well.”
Of the misuse, Lucic-Baroni says she overcame, and the lean years that followed, she said “I had a choice to cave or to grow and blossom from it. I took the latter choice, and I’m very proud of myself and my family, that we got away from that.”
“I didn’t let it destroy me. It was difficult, sure, but I believe you really have a choice in everything. You either pick yourself up by the bootstraps and you move on and become stronger from your experiences. Or you falter.”
When asked about her holding up physically after reaching the quarterfinals in both singles and doubles, she laughed and said “Great. I’m still very much in both singles and doubles, so I’m just going to keep quiet, keep on taping. I’m not going to talk much about it. I’m still here. I’m still fighting. The heart is 100 percent, so that’s all that matters.”