Zoe Hives’ story of persistence stood out from Australia’s impressive effort to have six players qualify for Wimbledon.
Zoe Hives played one of the self-confessed worst matches of her life, one week before qualifying for her Wimbledon debut on Friday.
And there was a reason: the same one that makes the world No.572’s story the most inspirational among the six Australians who battled through qualifying at Roehampton.
Hives had a flare-up of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, better known as POTS, a blood circulation disorder that ruined more than two years of her career – just as she was threatening to crack the top 100.
At her worst, walking from her Ballarat front door to the letterbox was a difficult task, while a five-minute walk was an achievement.
She even struggled to see the ball during matches, with a glandular fever diagnosis in late 2019 exacerbating what was already happening with her POTS battle and forcing her onto the sidelines.
There was naturally a spilling over of emotions in Madrid last week, when her POTS symptoms surfaced again.
“I was very, very shattered,” Hives told News Corp.
“Coming in this week, I was like, ‘I just need to enjoy it’. I had a few good practice sessions and was like, ‘Hey, it’s starting to turn’ because I knew, in 2018, when I came back, that’s what happened for me.
“I focused on my attitude on the court and that allowed me to play well.”
After dominant victories over 20th-seeded Romanian Gabriela Lee and American former world No.73 Sachia Vickery, Hives was set to face fellow Australian Priscilla Hon for a Wimbledon spot.
But only 10 minutes before they were due to go on court, the 25-year-old, coached by Michael Logarzo, discovered Hon had withdrawn due to an untimely bout of food poisoning.
“It feels bittersweet and strange to not actually play the match, but I’m very excited for next week,” she said.
“It sucked that it was against another Aussie and that we didn’t get a chance to play off for it, but I’ve had plenty of these things happen to me and, in a way, it’s nice to not be on the receiving end of it for once.”
Hives will never be rid of POTS but manages it through the expertise of Brett Jarosz, who specialises in neuro-orthopaedic rehabilitation and helped dual world champion surfer Tyler Wright return from post-viral fatigue.
“It doesn’t affect me everyday anymore, but it’s something I have to learn to deal with,” she said.
“Last week I had a bit of a sniffle, then because I was sick and playing a match, my body went into protective mode and made me feel really unwell, even though I wasn’t. It’s a weird thing.”
But Hives, who will play Greek fifth seed Maria Sakkari in the first round, remains determined to find out how far she can go in what is an unforgiving sport.
Memories are strong of her reaching round 2 at her only other grand slam appearance, the 2019 Australian Open, but she admits there were doubts about whether she would make it back.
“Yeah, there were, if I’m going to be honest,” Hives said.
“But I always wanted to give it a go, even if I can’t get back to the level I was. That’s all that mattered to me.
“To have qualified for this so early in my trip feels amazing and gives me a lot of confidence going forward that my tennis is still there.”