Commentary

How I got involved in this beautiful sport

Updated: September 6, 2010, 3:56 PM ET
By Andrea Petkovic | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: WTA star Andrea Petkovic has been blogging for ESPN.com throughout the fortnight, giving us an inside scoop of all the happening inside (and outside) the locker room.

The second week begins and as nobody, including myself, expected me to still be here. I'm running out of subjects. I already described each and every facility existing at the U.S. Open, so I really don't think talking about the bathrooms would do any good. I figured that for one time I would just talk about myself and what in the end brought me to tennis, so everyone who thinks this could be very boring should stop reading now.

My dad was a former tennis player; he was a part of the then Yugoslavian Davis Cup team, so the fact that I chose tennis as my first sport was more of a necessity than really my own decision. My dad never forced me to play tennis in particular, but he always wanted me and my sister to do sport, any kind we wished. So tennis was always there in my life, but as a kid you don't seem to appreciate things. You just do them maybe because you are having fun and maybe you are not, but either way you never stop, sigh and think, "I'm the luckiest kid in the world to be involved in this beautiful sport."

There were two big decisions in my life I had to make. And I consider them both right after the years have passed by. The first decision had to be made when I was 16. In Germany, you can finish school after the 10th or the 13th grade -- but only if you do three extra years do you have the right to go to college afterward.

I had just reached the quarterfinals in the Australian Open junior event and Adidas wanted to sign a contract with me, so I felt the pressure of stopping school and turning pro at the age of 16. I didn't do it.

The second decision came when I was 19, and after I definitely finished school I was confronted with the decision of going to college or eventually turning pro. This might sound strange, but my parents didn't want me to be a professional tennis player. The wanted me to live a stable life, have a secure education and play tennis as a hobby. Well, I didn't follow their lead. I turned pro, but I set myself a goal, if I didn't reach top 50 in the next two years I would stop and go to university. After one year, I was in the top 100, and as the second year started, my biggest upset came along the way as a surprise. I tore my ACL at the Australian Open, my first main draw appearance in a Grand Slam. So my two-year-goal was messed up.

So I lied -- I actually had to make three big decisions in my life. Did I really want to keep doing this taking into account that it would take me more than six months getting back to the racket and even double the time to get back to where I was before my injury? I did want to keep doing this, and here I am in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, ranked 38 and two years have gone by since I made the last big decision in my life.

When my parents ask me what they should do with their children who have aspirations of becoming a professional athlete, I always tell them education comes first then you can still be one of the best athletes in the world with the right work ethic, the will and the perspiration. It might not be the classical approach to professional sport where sponsors want little girls to be as successful as possible, but it worked for me and now I'm not the little kid anymore that just does things because it's natural, but I stop, sigh and think 'I'm the luckiest kid in the world to be involved in this beautiful sport.