Jordanne Whiley opted to take a complete break from tennis since retiring from the game two years ago, but the former US Open champion is delighted to be back in the spotlight as one of the Sky Sports team at the final Grand Slam of 2023.
Whiley was born osteogenesis imperfecta, an affliction commonly referred to as brittle bone disease, yet tennis offered her a chance to shine on the biggest of sporting stages.
She went on to enjoy a decorated career in the wheelchair game, winning the 2015 US Open singles titles and collecting 12 Grand Slam doubles titles in a career that also included singles and doubles medals at the Paralympic Games.
Whiley has joined the Sky Sports teams of analysts for the US Open and she will be casting her eye over British greats Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid when she gets to New York, as well as commenting on the able-bodied athletes lighting up the screens as the final Grand Slam of 2023 reaches a conclusion.
In an exclusive interview with Tennis365, Jordanne has given us the inside track on her story on and off the court.
How excited were you to get the opportunity to join the Sky Sports team?
It was really out of the blue and I’m so excited about it. Since I retired two years ago, I haven’t really had too much involvement in tennis, but this is super exciting because I’m back in the mix and get to see everyone at one of the biggest events in our sport. And this time I’m on the other side of it.
You are not just covering the wheelchair matches for Sky so tell us about your new role. Tell us all about it?
I’m doing a bit of everything. I have requested that I will have focus on the wheelchair matches as that is where my knowledge is strongest. I have personal relationships with a lot of the girls and guys and when I spoke to Sky, I suggested that I could really make something special of the wheelchair coverage as I have special connections with the players and know their stories. I’ve played with a lot of the guys since I was 13-years-old and we have gone through the juniors and seniors together. I can comment on their game and I can’t wait to do that.
Who should we look out for at the US Open?
We obviously all want the Brits to do well and Alfie is always great to watch. There is also some great talent in the women’s draw. I came through the ranks with Esther Vergeer and she went on a run winning 559 matches and losing just one. She was the best player the sport has ever seen, but now Diede de Groot has come along and she is basically a replica of Esther. Diede is the best player I’ve seen in a long time and it wouldn’t surprise me if she matches Esther’s records.
Can you believe how far the wheelchair game has come since your early days in the sport?
I kinda feel like I retired a couple of years too soon! Seeing Alfie and Gordon playing on Court No.1 at Wimbledon and all those fans in there cheering them on, it shows how far the wheelchair game has come. I was playing on Court No.2 and No.3 and now they are up to Court No.1, so it’s great for our sport. Players like Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett are household names now and for those of us who have been promoting the wheelchair game for a long time, it’s been fantastic to see the sport moving forward. They are amazing people and amazing players. I love to watch them play.
How do you reflect on Alfie Hewett’s remarkable rise in wheelchair tennis?
I remember seeing him when he first started and I told everyone that he was going to be the world No.1, he was going to win medals and Grand Slams. You could see straight away that he was a great player. To see what Alfie and all the players in the sport have done to promote the wheelchair game over the last few years, it’s just amazing. Wimbledon this year was just unbelievable and I wish I was still playing.
Is tennis the ultimate sport for promoting wheelchair athletes?
Absolutely. I feel like our sport is a trailblazer for wheelchair sports and Para sports. You don’t generally see them getting a lot of airtime outside of the Paralympics, but I feel like tennis is the sport that is shown more than any other as we have the Grand Slam events where we play alongside the able-bodied athletes on the same stage.
How much support do wheelchair players get from the stars of the able-bodied game?
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have always been big supporters of wheelchair tennis and we are lucky in the UK to have the LTA backing us all the way.
What do you miss about playing tennis?
You know what, I don’t. When I retired, I knew that was the end. I played tennis my entire life as I started when I was three and retired when I was 29. So that is a big chunk of my life. I had other things in my life, new goals I wanted to pursue. I’m a single Mum and my son is about to go into Year 1 at school and there was no space in my life to travel the world as a sports person and still be a Mum.
Are you in touch with any of your tennis colleagues?
I’m still in touch with Lucy Shuker. I think she misses me on the doubles court, even if she doesn’t want to admit that! When you consider she has no core muscles, she is just a fantastic athlete and has achieved so much in the game. She has been the only player in the top ten who can’t walk or stand, so she is an inspiration.
The article Jordanne Whiley on a remarkable tennis story and her new Sky Sports role appeared first on Tennis365.com.