2017 Junior Wimbledon champion Claire Liu on her dream of playing Serena Williams, and her practical approach to a tennis career

2017 Junior Wimbledon champion Claire Liu on her dream of playing Serena Williams, and her practical approach to a tennis career

The American player talked about school, stress and self-confidence when she was in town for the Hong Kong open

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Claire Liu lost in the qualifiers at the Hong Kong Open, but she is far from discouraged.
Photo: Joanne Ma/SCMP

Claire Liu may have lost in the qualifiers at the ongoing Hong Kong Open tennis tournament, but she is far from being disheartened. The 18-year-old American said she would love to take on the world’s best, including the great Serena Williams.

“I would love to play against any top players, really,” Claire said with a big smile. “If I could choose any player though, I’d love to play Serena Williams, if that would ever happen. But at this particular tournament, maybe Naomi Osaka, because she’s really talented.”

Unfortunately, the Japanese star pulled out of the Hong Kong event on Sunday because of a back injury.

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Although Claire lost to Dutch player Lesley Kerkhove 0-6, 7-6, 5-7 last Saturday, she said she fought really hard.

“I was a little nervous before the match today. I’ve seen [Kerkhove] at other tournaments but I never played against her. After losing the first set really fast, I still tried to stay focused and compete,” she said.

Claire, who turned professional after winning the Junior Wimbledon crown last year, talked to Young Post about school, stress, and self-confidence.

Claire like to listen to motivational speeches before every match.
Photo: Joanne Ma/SCMP

Before becoming a full-time tennis player, Claire was an ordinary secondary school student, although she had a packed schedule compared to many of her peers.

“Up until my freshman year of high school, I went to a regular school. I’d just go to school all day, and then practise in the late afternoon,” she said. The teenager went to say that she had managed to strike a fine balance between school and training, thanks to her parents. “It’s shaped me into a more disciplined and responsible person in terms
of managing my time.”

Whenever she felt stressed, Claire said she turned to her loved ones for help. “Hanging around loving people like my friends and family really helped me get away from any negativity. Also, I’m trying to have more confidence in myself, especially when I feel upset.”

During times of uncertainty, Claire said there are voices in her head saying, “What if I don’t do well?” But she perseveres, believing her career is more of a marathon than a sprint. She just has to be patient and stay positive throughout the whole process.

“If I just focus on working hard and getting better and having fun, then no matter what happens in the future, I’ll be happy,” she added.

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Just like most young athletes, Claire has a lot of sports legends to look up to. “Li Na was definitely my inspiration when I was younger. Kim Clijsters, too. Now, it’s the Williams sisters.” She said that they would always be her role models, no matter what, as she sees them as very strong, both physically and mentally, and in possession of a lot of self-belief.

Claire also draws inspiration from motivational speeches on the internet. In fact, she listens to them before every match.

“A lot of people listen to music before competitions. But I found this playlist on Spotify with inspirational speeches. I somehow just always find myself listening to them.”

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When asked about her most memorable matches, Claire said it was both the 2017 Junior Wimbledon final and this year’s Wimbledon match. “In Wimbledon [this year], I played Angelique Kerber who became the champion. I actually took the first set off her and played a pretty good match. It was really fun, too.”

Claire was the only player to win a set against Kerber in the whole tournament.

To aspiring athletes who have big dreams like her, she said: “You have to put in the work, obviously. It’s very hard work. But also you have to be sure that what you’re doing is what you want to do, and that you’re going to be happy with it now, five years later, 10 years later.”

Edited by M. J. Premaratne

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Bring on the best, says rising star

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