Lily Fairclough is one of Australia’s leading junior players.
The 17-year-old from Perth achieved a career-high world junior ranking of No.104 this week and is determined to continue climbing even higher.
In our series profiling Tennis Australia’s National Tennis Academy athletes, Fairclough reveals she models her game on fellow left-hander Petra Kvitova …
Tell us about your start in tennis. How old were you and where did you start playing?
I was about five or six. I used to live in Europe, so I started playing there. I’ve always been into pretty much all sports. I watched tennis on TV a bit and fell in love with it.
Whereabouts in Europe did you grow up?
I was in Cyprus, so near the Mediterranean. I started playing at the Limassol Sporting Club, which was a small clay-court club.
Is clay your favourite surface to play on?
It’s not actually, I’m a bit more of a hard-court and grass player.
And when did you move to Perth?
Well, I was born in Perth. I left when I was five and came back when I was 11.
What do you enjoy most about tennis?
I definitely enjoy the competing. Being out there by yourself, or playing doubles with your partner, just competing and leaving it all out there.
Who have been the biggest influences in your tennis career so far?
My parents are probably the most influential. They’ve supported my journey from the very start and have always been there and done everything for me.
Did your parents ever play tennis?
No, but they’ve always been around sport. They were sport teachers and they love sports, so they’ve always been there with me. My mum was a swimmer and she loved netball. My dad used to play a lot of cricket and AFL.
How did you end up playing tennis?
I don’t know. Me and Jay, my twin, used to just play all the sports that we could. We both watched tennis and thought we’d give it a crack.
Who are your favourite tennis players to watch?
I have a couple, for different reasons. Ash Barty was obviously so good for women’s tennis in Australia and for people like me growing up. I like the way she holds herself throughout everything that she has been through and stays really true to herself. It’s so great to watch her. I admire Petra Kvitova too. I like to model my game around her a little bit and she’s an awesome person as well.
What have been your proudest on-court moment so far?
It’s tough to think of one, but recently I’ve had a couple great moments where I’ve turned a little bit of a corner in my journey. I think I am heading in a really good direction at the moment.
What do you mean by that?
I’ve been improving my mentality on court and becoming a bit more of a positive competitor.
You spent some time travelling in Europe this year. How did you find that experience?
I was competing in Germany and the Netherlands, which was really good. It was challenging, for sure, but great to play and see what the level is around the world. Because for a couple of years now, most of us in Australia have struggled to see what that level is like in Europe.
How challenging was the COVID-19 pandemic and the limited competition opportunities for you?
I was in Western Australia at the time, so it was a little bit challenging. We were cut off from a lot of opportunities around the world, but I did a lot of training and managed.
How difficult is it juggling school commitments with competition and training?
I find managing school with tennis pretty easy, to be honest. I quite like doing school and taking my mind off tennis for a while. I think it’s great to have a healthy balance.
What are your favourite subjects at school?
I’ve always liked English. I like to write and read, so that’s probably my favourite.
If you weren’t pursuing tennis, what would be your dream job?
It would be something to do with sport, just because I love sport so much. Maybe a physiotherapist or something like that.
Can you describe your playing style in one sentence?
My playing style is definitely an aggressive all-courter.
What is your biggest strength as a player?
I think my serve is definitely a big one. My forehand as well. I like to play with variety.
If you could steal any stroke from another player, what would it be and why?
Probably John Isner’s serve. It’s one of the best serves in the world and I’d love to have it.
Do you have any pre-match superstitions?
Not really. I have my warm-up routine that I follow, but I’m not a very superstitious person.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing tennis?
I like to watch movies, hang out with my friends as well. Just try and relax as much as I can.
What is your favourite TV series?
I love Stranger Things. I’m obsessed with it.
Who is your favourite musician?
I listen to all kinds of music, but I’m not sure I have a favourite.
What is your favourite food?
Mexican, for sure.
Do you have a favourite social media platform to use?
I don’t go on social media that much, but I do use Snapchat to talk to all my friends. It’s a bit more of a relaxed social media platform.
Who would be your dream doubles partner?
I love to play with Roger Federer. I mean he’s one of the greatest of all time, so it would be amazing.
Can you remember your first Australian Open experience?
I’ve actually only been once, which was this year. It was amazing. I went with my coach from Perth, James Connolly. It was super cool to just be around that environment.
Did you ever attend the Hopman Cup in Perth?
Yeah, I went to the Hopman Cup a lot of times. The year that Nick Kyrgios won the title (in 2016) with Dasha (Saville) was super fun to watch.
Do you remember the first autograph or player selfie you got?
I think it was with Petra Kvitova actually, which was pretty cool.
What do you enjoy most about the National Tennis Academy?
I love everything. I’m so grateful that I have this opportunity. I have a great coach and all of the tools that I need to progress on my journey.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since joining the National Tennis Academy?
Definitely to maximise everything that I get given.
What does a normal day look like for you at the National Tennis Academy?
A normal day would be waking up pretty early and training for two hours. Then depending on what day of the week, I’ll do movement, conditioning or gym. Some days I’ll hit again in the afternoon and then other days I’ve got appointments, massages, nutrition or psychologist sessions, and then I’d go home and relax. Oh, I forgot school. I also have to do that (laughs).
What is the living environment like at the National Tennis Academy?
We live just down the road, so I’ll walk in most mornings. It’s nice to be so close to the tennis centre. I live with two other girls at the moment and sometimes there’s people coming in and out of the house to stay for a few weeks. We’ve got a house parent, who actually isn’t a tennis player. She has her own job, but it’s quite nice to have someone not from the tennis community to take care of us. I enjoy it. It’s definitely nice to be with people who are on tennis journeys, but different ones.
Do you find learning from others at the National Tennis Academy is helping you grow as a person too?
Yeah, for sure. We’re there for each other when we have good moments and bad ones as well.
Is it hard living so far away from your home in Perth?
Yeah, it’s challenging at times. But I don’t get very homesick, so I manage quite well. I still get to go home a couple of times a year. After a training block and a trip, I’ll go home for a week.
We heard you come from a tall family, is that true?
I’ve got a twin brother, Jay, who also plays tennis. He’s sadly taller than me now, but I knew that was coming. I’ve got an older brother who’s at college in America for basketball. He’s six foot eight and definitely trumps the rest of us in the family. My dad’s quite tall too.
Did you ever play basketball?
I did a little bit a few years ago. I really enjoyed it, but I gave it up for tennis. Tennis has always been my number one sport. But when I was a bit younger, I used to try and dabble in as many sports as I could.
How often do you hit with your twin brother?
When I go home, I hit with him a lot. It’s nice to see how he’s going and enjoy a bit of time with him.
Are you two very competitive?
We are so competitive. Recently we’ve been better, but there used to be a few arguments.
Who has the upper hand when you play?
I like to think that I beat him. If you asked him, I’m sure he’d give you a different answer.
Perth has produced a lot of top-ranked tennis players, such as Astra Sharma. Does her success motivate you?
Astra (Sharma) is amazing and so good to train with. I’ve been lucky enough to train with her a couple of times when she’s home. She’s just an amazing athlete and competitor and such a nice person, so it’s good to be around her.
How much does it inspire you when you get to hit with someone who has been a top 100-ranked player?
It’s definitely really motivating and inspires me work as hard as I can to meet that level.
What are your tennis goals?
I’d love to make it to the top 100 at least. Top 50 would be amazing. I want to go as far as I possibly can.
What are your short-term goals?
I definitely want to win a couple more singles titles. I want to maximise what I can do with juniors as much as I can, but also not put too much pressure on myself.
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