HARARE – At birth, Cara Black’s mother believed her daughter had every attribute to become a great Ballerina whilst her late father thought she could become anything she wanted, but “tennis was not an option.”
However, as life unfolded, both parents would soon find out that their lovely daughter was born to play tennis.
LIFE AT THE TOP: Cara Black, right, has enjoyed a 19-year professional tennis career and has set her sights on a Grand Slam title next season
Cara has gone on to become one of the world’s most respected doubles tennis players.
Her starring career has so far seen her winning a total of 10 Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles and mixed doubles combined.
The three-time Zimbabwe Sportsperson of the Year, who climbed to position 14 in October on the women doubles world rankings, is now a globe-trotter on the doubles circuit.
Her life of glamour is far removed from the 22-acre avocado pear trees and vegetable plantation where she grew up outside Harare.
Starting tennis at the age of eight, playing her first International Futures Tournament at 13 and living the comfort of home at just 15, Cara’s life has been all about tennis.
The 34-year-old however, admits as a toddler, her brothers Byron and Wayne received most of the attention from their father.
The former female doubles world number one is currently home on a short break from her hectic tour schedule.
“My brothers came first, he (my father) really pushed them to play,” Cara, who grew up with four grass courts in her backyard, says.
“But with me actually he didn’t want me to play, so I had to ask my mum to teach me. He kept saying “no, tennis is not for girls” but obviously that only made me keener to play.
“All I wanted to do was what my brothers were doing,” Cara adds.
Cara’s mother Velia said at first she too was mistaken on the destiny and path her daughter would one day travel.
“I was a dancer, I danced for many years but I didn’t succeed because I was too tall, so when “little Snooky” (Cara) came along she was a lovely little thing,” says Velia, now 70 years old.
“A tiny baby, she weighed four pounds and 12 ounces (1,87kg) and I thought yeah, I got a little ballerina. But one day she came to me and said ‘mommy, I don’t want to dance anymore, I just want to play tennis.’
“My husband said “oh no women tennis players are not all that glamorous, it’s a hard life for women out there,” he didn’t want his daughter to get involved.
“So I started coaching her because he was concentrating on the boys but when he saw how good she was, he took over her training and that’s how it all begun.
“She didn’t go to university like the two boys (Wayne and Byron) she went straight out onto the circuit,” adds Velia.
“It was traumatising obviously to let her go at such a young age.”
Cara was part of the Zimbabwean Fed Cup Team in 1993-94 and 1996 before representing Zimbabwe at the Olympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008
But Cara is however, saddened she could have represented the country of her birth in more team events.
“It’s something that makes me sad to this day. I never really had other girls to play with.
“But I’m proud I still get to raise the Zimbabwean flag wherever I am,” she says.
The former Lewisam Primary School pupil says winning the Grand Slam mixed doubles title at Wimbledon with her brother Wayne in 2004 ranks as one of her most memorable achievements.
“My dad (Donald Black) played for Rhodesia. Wimbledon was his favourite tournament, he never got to win it but he always used to say “if I can’t win Wimbledon I want one of my kids to win it’,” Cara says.
Velia added she was grateful to the Black family’s popularity here: “They have been many wonderful responses, many stories,” she says.
Cara has now set her sights on winning a Grand Slam title next year with doubles partner Sania Mirza.
“That would be amazing to achieve but I won’t be disappointed if we don’t,” Cara says, adding:
“I have achieved so much already. When I came back (out of retirement earlier this year) one thing I wanted to do was to embrace all the sport offers.
“Enjoy the travelling, again, enjoy having him (son, Lachlan) and my husband on the road. I just said to myself from here on its just cherry on the cake.”