We’re currently in the thick of tennis season, so this month’s #My9to5 post feels very timely indeed. British tennis player Laura Robson kindly found time in her busy training schedule to speak to CTP about her career, and it’s fair to say her job is unlike any other we’ve covered in this series. If you follow tennis you’ll know that a wrist injury kept Laura away from the WTA tour for a while, but she’s now competing again and gives us an insight into her intense training regime and the day-to-day challenges she faces…
When did you first start playing tennis and who introduced you to the game?
I started playing tennis when I was about five or six. My parents played family doubles with my older brother and sister, and because I’m the youngest I was always the odd-one-out. I had to sit at the side and pick up the balls. But at the end of their matches I would join in for about 10 minutes, and that’s how I started playing. I guess at the time it was something I enjoyed because I was good at it; and I would play against my brother, so I experienced healthy competition from the very beginning.
I started taking tennis lessons with a coach at my parents’ club a few times a week, and I played in my first international tournament when I was nine. The sets only went up to four games, rather than six, so it was really kiddie, but it was my first big experience. You don’t even realise how young you start until you think about it.
At what point did you start to pursue tennis professionally? And was it hard to balance training and tournaments with school?
When I was 14 I started doing really well in the junior events, and it was just a natural progression from there. Going pro was something that had always been in the back of my mind, and when you’re playing well you’re like, “Oh, this idea isn’t so farfetched.” By that point I was travelling around the world doing something I loved, so it never felt like I was missing out on anything. I remember going to a friend’s sleepover one evening and my mum picked me up so I could go and hit for two hours, then she dropped me back at the sleepover afterwards. I adapted my life around training, and once it became too difficult to balance everything I started home schooling.
My parents were obviously super-encouraging, and they like tennis and liked that I played, but they always said, “If there’s ever a day when you don’t enjoy it anymore let’s do something else.” And that’s still something they say to me.
What does your typical workday look like when you’re training or playing in a tournament?
Training days start pretty early. I’m usually with my physio by 8am, and I’ll do a quick check with him before getting warmed up. I warm-up between 8.30-9.30am: get everything lose, get everything firing and do some wrist rehab. Then I hit from 9.30 until 11.30am, break for lunch and hit again between 2-4pm. I’ll end the day with a fitness session, and sometimes have another physio check.
We usually do three full days like this, then a half-day, followed by another two days, and then one day off. That’s my typical training schedule, but I rarely get the same day off every week because your body gets used to routine. We have to continuously mix it up and keep my body guessing.
If you’re due to play in a tournament you start to taper off your training schedule a couple of days before it begins. On the actual match day you’ll have a vague idea of when you’re going to play, but unless you’re first on court it’s never set in stone. So if you’re playing in the third match after an 11am start you probably won’t get on court until 3pm. I’ll begin a match day with an hour-long warm-up, hit for half an hour and then have some lunch, get my kit on and relax before I warm-up for the game and head onto court.
Do you still get nervous before you play? How do you get into the zone before a big game?
It sounds a bit lonely, but I always sit by myself for a little while and listen to music. But it’s normal to get nervous – if you don’t you’re like some sort of robot. My mum always says to me, “Laura, you need to be more like Beyoncé.” Like, I should create a stage persona or something. But tennis isn’t really the same. I was trying to explain to my mum, the difference with Beyoncé is that she has a normal life and when she’s on stage she’s in her stage outfits with all of her wind machines and dancers. Whereas I’m still me, I’m just playing tennis in a more serious way. There’s no wind machine, there’s no stage makeup, there’s no choreography…
SHOP LAURA’S STYLE
What are the biggest challenges and perks of your 9 to 5?
It’s a lot of travel and a lot of time spent away from friends and family. I mean, I’m used to it now, but it’s still a challenge. I live in Florida for the majority of the year, so I don’t get to see my family as much as I would like. And I spend a lot of time on airplanes and in airports, which kind of sucks. But it’s weird, because the downside is being away so much, but at the same time having the opportunity to travel is also one of the biggest perks. I can’t think of many other people my age who have been to so many different places, so I feel incredibly lucky. My physio in Florida has never left the United States, and he was like, “So where’s your favourite place in the world?” And I’m able to say, “Well I like Rome, but I love Tokyo and Melbourne.” That’s such a cool thing.
What are your tricks for staying motivated?
It sounds a bit weird to say, but winning is the motivation. You put in all the hard work during your training weeks so that you’re able to go into a tournament, play well and be proud of yourself for pulling it off. And that’s always been my motivation – winning, improving, and noticing an improvement every day.
How to you like to unwind after a long day of training?
I do really enjoy Game of Thrones. There are two shows I watch every week: Game of Thrones and The Graham Norton Show. I love Graham Norton, and when I’m away I just want to watch something British. So every Saturday I pop it on and it’s a nice little reminder of home. I also try and sightsee a lot if I’m travelling. My current trainer hadn’t been to Europe before, so while she’s been away with me I’ve done all of the tourist-y stuff with her. And it’s been nice to experience it all with someone who hasn’t seen it before.
Which other women working in the industry inspire you?
Anyone that’s doing well is an inspiration, really. Serena Williams, obviously. She’s like the best ever! And I’m also really inspired by other players my age – to see them do well is always a good thing. I’m close friends with Madison Keys, and she’s been playing really well recently. So you have that healthy competition on the court but are still happy when your friends have done a good job. I mean, it sucks a little bit when you lose to them, but you don’t hold a grudge or anything.
And, finally, what is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
I think for me, with all the injuries I’ve had, the best advice I’ve been given recently is just to stay patient and stay positive. It sounds so simple, but if you keep reminding yourself to get into that frame of mind it becomes a lot easier. And my parents always said, “Enjoy what you do, believe in yourself, believe that you’re a great player and things will start to happen.”
You can catch up on the previous My 9 to 5 interviews here >>