High hopes for Queenswood School's tennis star Ema Lazic after she makes her Australian Open debut
PUBLISHED: 15:26 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:26 16 February 2016
Ema Lazic's star is on the rise and more experiences like the one at last month's Junior Australian Open will stand her in good stead to reach her goal of the main women's tour.
Having qualified to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time due to her terrific rankings spike in 2015, leaving her inside the top 70 [62nd] on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior circuit at the start of this year for the first time, the 17-year-old was relishing the big time.
Lazic told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “It was such an incredible experience to go over there and be with all the professional players.
“We were all quite closely-packed so I was sitting in the changing room and Venus Williams came and sat next to me.
“It was an amazing atmosphere to be in and will certainly help me in my development in the next couple of years.”
Lazic was determined to make the most of her first taste of the main circuit, gaining advice from three past and present winners of coveted titles at Melbourne Park.
She continued: “I managed to speak to Victoria Azarenka [women’s singles champion 2012 and 2013] and from the men’s draw I was lucky enough to talk with Stan [Wawrinka - 2014 men’s singles champion] and congratulated them on their wins that day.
“My coach knows Andy and Jamie Murray [men’s doubles champion this year] so I spoke to Jamie for a bit and asked him ‘what’s it like to be on the tour? etc...’ and also managed to watch him practice so that was really beneficial because I could see the quality of his hitting.”
It was fitting that Lazic’s first-ever Grand Slam experience would come in a city she knows relatively well, having grown up in Melbourne for a short while her family moving to Swindon when she was five.
Thus, while many players tradittionally struggle with the searing Australian heat, she was at home in the colossal temperatures.
However, the Brit, who only first picked up a racket at the age of 10, was still treated to a baptism of fire in both her singles and doubles first-round clashes.
Lazic said: “I think at one point of my singles match, every seat was filled meaning there was around 400 people watching me and playing against an Australian girl [Jaimee Fourlis] made it really tough.
“A lot of the crowd were naturally supporting her with banners and chanting but it was great just to be in front of the big crowd and there were some fans for me so it made for a great match.
“You can’t really control the situation so you just have to enjoy it and enjoy being in that kind of atmosphere.”
Lazic was unfortunately beaten in straight sets by Fourlis and didn’t fare much better in doubles action alongside Russian Elena Rybakina, defeated by Spanish duo Cristina Bucsa and Eva Guerrero Alvarez.
Nevertheless, the Queenswood School pupil, who remarkably achieved six A* and two A grades from her eight GCSEs last summer while retaining her exhausting tennis schedule, is hoping for more tastes of the main circuit in the near future.
She said: “Hopefully I will get a chance to compete at this year’s French Open and Wimbledon. Obviously I will have to fit it around my A-Levels because they are important as well.
“To be able to play Wimbledon in my home country would be special.
“My ranking will slightly slip because I am going to lose some points from a tournament as it only lasts for 12 months.
“Therefore I will have to play a couple more events in order to keep it at the right level to qualify automatically for those Grand Slams, but providing I can balance my studies and schedule I think I can achieve that.”
The Gosling Tennis Academy prodigee, who won her first junior tour title in Serbia back in August of last year, has always been ambitious and has already set herself a long-term goal.
She said: “ I would really like to be a professional and inside the top 100 Ladies Tennis Association rankings by the time I’m 22.
“Hopefully when I cut my A-Levels down from four to three in September I will get some more time to train on court and increase my training hours.
“With more time being put into my tennis that should mean being more developed both physically and techinically so I can make an impact in the women’s game.”
She added: “Gosling Academy have been incredible.
“They have combined with Queenswood to give me the best programme possible but with A-Levels choice and how much I want to train [Ema trains until 10am every morning before going to school] and they’ve given me the maximum amount of support.”