Nottingham's Jocelyn Rae determined to mix it with best when big tournament returns to city in 2015

Thursday, January 08, 2015
Nottingham's Jocelyn Rae determined to mix it with best when big tournament returns to city in 2015

NOTTINGHAM'S top tennis player Jocelyn Rae is going back to where it all started as she strives to reach new heights.

The Arnold ace has already pioneered new ground on her local grass courts at Nottingham Tennis Centre as the first homegrown player to feature and subsequently win an Aegon Trophy final.

Now Rae is determined to mix it with the game's elite when some of the world's finest players start their road to Wimbledon on grass at the Nottingham Open next year.

Not since America's Billie Jean King dazzled on the court four decades ago has the city hosted a women's event of such calibre.

The 23-year-old's desire to return home for the event goes further than just staying in touch with her roots.

For Rae, her women's doubles title triumph alongside Anna Smith in June was a key moment in a remarkable year as she bounced back from a career-threatening foot injury to enjoy her finest year on the WTA Tour.

A month after collecting their Aegon Trophy crown the pair were storming their way to the final of the Swedish Open.

Not only did they reach the decider of a WTA event for the first time, it was the first time they were accepted into a WTA event on their world ranking.

Rae and Smith quickly got comfortable serving it up with the tennis elite, reaching the semi-final of the Citi Open in Washington DC after collecting another ITF title win on their arrival in the United States.

"It's amazing the difference a few weeks make," said 2010 Commonwealth Games mixed doubles winner Rae.

"In Sweden we were wondering if we would even get in, then we made the final and went on to the semi-final in Washington and were disappointed in only making it that far.

"I guess that comes from the confidence of winning."

That self-assurance did not just happen over a few days on the clay courts of Sweden.

It was nurtured over months, toiling on court in the lower ranked Futures tournaments, pocketing winnings that would barely cover travel expenses as Rae jet set from Shrewsbury and Glasgow to Pune, India, and Fukuoka, Japan.

While she got used to the rigours of the professional game once again, it was the faith put in her by Judy Murray which gave her possibly the most important career jolt since embarking on her comeback.

Being drafted into Murray's Fed Cup team as a replacement for the nation's No.1 Laura Robson came as a shock to Rae's system.

She went from teaming up with Smith to win an Aegon GB Pro-Series event in Sunderland to representing Great Britain against Austria, Latvia and Romania in the doubles two weeks later.

"It was quite big because I hadn't been back for that long," said Rae.

"It's always an honour to play and get picked for your country, but I did find it quite tricky to go in at that level because I hadn't competed at that level for three years.

"What it did was make me want to work even harder with Anna to reach that level, which we did a couple of months later."

Now it is some home comforts that Rae is most looking forward to next year in the Nottingham Open WTA International event.

"The tournament is going to be great for a lot of reasons, firstly it is another WTA event in Great Britain and secondly it's right here in Nottingham," said Rae.

"Whenever I tell people I'm from Nottingham they always say that the tournaments here are so good, the courts and facility is excellent. Now it is going to be even better."

By Nottingham Post



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