Young Mum Mandy Minella prepares for her tour comeback at the Mouratoglou Academy
Mandy Minella remembers the day her life took an unexpected turn — March 23, 2017.
“I learned that I was pregnant at the Miami Open, last year. It came as a complete surprise to me, but I was so thrilled. I immediately saw several doctors who assured me there was no risk for me to keep playing. I was on a good run, I had a good ranking, so my team and I decided I would keep playing until the moment I would feel it's not worth it anymore.”
Wimbledon — her favorite tournament — was definitely worth it, so she didn’t stop playing until then. By that point, she was four and a half months pregnant, and her baby bump had grown enough to be noticed by most observers. Despite losing to Francesca Schiavone in the first round, Minella’s participation to the tournament stirred quite a commotion among the media.
“I’m happy to have kept playing for three more months after Miami because, you know, a pregnancy is quite long, and I don’t know how I would have dealt with having to stay at home without playing for nine months,” she said. “Competing at Grand Slams has always been a dream of mine, and although I had the opportunity to play a lot of them throughout the years, I'm still not getting tired of it. I missed the latest US Open and Australian Open, but I hope I will be able to return to playing them in the future.”
If she sustains her pre-pregnancy form, she might fulfill her wish. In April 2017, she was close to equalling her career-high ranking of No. 66, which dates back to 2012 — a ranking that would secure her a spot in the Grand Slam main draws.
Accordingly, when asked about her biggest achievement, Mandy Minella certainly gives an honorable mention to her Wimbledon Centre Court first round appearance against Serena Williams in 2013, a moment she “will never forget”; but what she remains the proudest of is the way she turned her career around at a time when she considered riding off into the sunset.
“Mid-2016, I reached a new low and I thought about calling it a career. My team and I had agreed that I would retire after Wimbledon. But then I won in Bol, Croatia (a WTA 125K Series event), I went on to play well at Wimbledon (Editor’s Note: She made the second round, something she hadn’t done in a Grand Slam since the 2014 Australian Open) and at other events, and I decided to carry on the journey. Winning Bol helped me prove myself I still had it — prove I could play even better than before.”
Her 3-month-old baby, Emma Lina, offers her a little extra motivation as well to look further down the road. “It didn’t cross my mind yet, but I would be happy if she can see me do what I’ve been doing all my life. If I stay fit for long enough, she might be able to see a couple matches at some point.”
Although all of this is obviously very new for her, Minella knows she can count on the support of fellow Mums of the tour. “I haven’t had the chance to see Serena again yet, but Vika (Azarenka) gave me a few tips in Mallorca last year, her first event since becoming a mother. She recommended me a baby cocoon, I bought it and I am highly satisfied with it (laughs). Tatiana Maria, who also kept playing during her pregnancy and who has been traveling on tour with her baby for quite a bit now, also offered me advice. All advice is welcome since I’m kind of leaping into the unknown. Everything’s going well so far — it’s just a magical period of our lives.”
If Mandy Minella says “our lives”, it’s because her coach, Tim Sommer, also happens to be her life partner since 2014. She believes it will make things easier for them logistically in the future. “The three of us (Tim, the baby and I) will travel on the tournaments, with my step-parents helping us occasionally. In 2017, I proved myself I could enjoy the traveling aspect of my career without focusing only in tennis.”
That being said, write her off at your own expense. “I still have a protected ranking of No. 104, which will allow me to enter eight tournaments, including two Grand Slams. I’m on the entry list of a few tournaments in February, but I will decide in the last minute if I’m ready or not.”
While preparing herself to return to the tour, Mandy Minella found time to watch her peers compete at the Australian Open. “I watched the semifinal between Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber. It was one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen, hands down." Her analysis of the final (Editor's Note: The interview was conducted on Thursday) was sharp as well. “Halep played longer matches, we’ll see if Wozniacki can take advantage of it… Either way, we’re going to have a deserving first-time Grand Slam winner.”
Mandy Minella is getting ready for her second career at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, in Nice, a place she’s been familiar with since its Paris days. “I was actually one of the first players to train at the Academy — it was called after Australian coach Bob Brett at the time — from 2001 to 2004. I’ve always liked Patrick, someone very generous who does everything for his players. Although our paths have separated since those days, I’m happy to be working with him again in some way using his structure. He told me we would see each other when he comes back from the Australian Open."
Although she paid a visit to the new Academy during its construction phase, she was impressed by the facilities. "It’s one of the best academies in the world, with everything at the disposal of the players. Everyone has been so nice with me. I’ve been working on my fitness with Gerald Cordemy, and hitting with a few young prospects of the Academy like Danae Petroula or Dasha Lopatetskaya (Editor’s note: She was the Les Petits As runner-up in 2017), who I believe will have a bright future.”
As her Mom is embracing the life of a tennis player again, what is daughter Emma Lina doing? “We have rented a house in the South, where my step-mother traveled with us, so she's taking care of Emma Lina during the day and I get to see her in the evenings,” Minella explained. "This way I am able to train while spending some quality time with her. She’s been a couple of times on the court with us, but she doesn’t realize yet what’s happening (laughs).”
Mandy Minella doesn’t seem to fully process the thrills and spills of her new life as a Mum either, but one thing’s for sure: She’s loving every part of it.
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