What's All the Racket?
S`NS visits with 2009 Female Player of the Year Wheelchair Tennis player Korie Homan.
From the 2008 Paralympic Games, to 2009 Wimbledon Championships, to 2010 Australian US Open, Korie Homan is blazing a trail for success on and off the court. The 24-year-old Dutch wheelchair tennis player is no stranger to the art of competition, having been involved in gymnastics, volleyball, and tennis from a young age. Now, the 2009 Female Wheelchair Tennis player of the year is setting her sights on a possible professional career and has recently been accepted into a veterinarian program to follow her other passion...animal care.
S`NS: Thanks for visiting with S`NS, Korie. Tell the readers, mostly who live in the United States, what it’s like growing up in the Netherlands.
Homan: The Netherlands is my home country, and every time I go back it feels good to come back.
S`NS: Can you share some of the details about your injury and how that has affected your life as an athlete.
Homan: When I was 12 years old, I had a car accident, which is why I lost my leg. Next to this I also had a cerebral contusion that affected my memory from before the accident. Everything I know is from what family and friends people tell me. During the accident I only bruised my ankle; this turned into a complex regional pain syndrome (nerve damage). I had a lot of pain, 24 hours a day. This affected my waking hours; I couldn’t sleep anymore, and couldn’t go to school or play tennis. After a lot of different therapies, I decided to ask the doctors for an amputation. This was four to five years after the accident. After the amputation I had no pain anymore, and am now able to walk again. So for me, the amputation improved my life a lot. Because of everything that happened I now have a lot of persistence, which means whenever I have a dream, I don’t give up until I have reached it. So it did improve my life in a certain way.
S`NS: What got you interested in tennis? What age were you?
Homan: Before the accident I was always playing sports - gymnastics, badminton, volleyball, and, of course, tennis. I was 7 when I started playing tennis. I would always tell my parents I wanted to be the new Steffi Graff, former world champion female tennis player. I probably would not have reached that level because I was doing to many different things. Tennis was my favorite sport, and after the accident, when able-bodied sports were far away for me, I started too look around for wheelchair sports and heard about tennis... it was an easy choice for me.
S`NS: Who are some of your mentors in the sport, the coaches you’ve had, and some of the training techniques that helped improve your game?
Homan: I started playing in a little town close to where my parents live. Gert-Jan van der Vegt was my coach and he noticed right away that I had the feeling for the game. He introduced me to the national coach at that time, Aad Zwaan. In 2003 I started playing international tournaments, and from then on it went very fast. I started climbing the world ranking and am now number two in the world. I am still working with Aad, and next to him we have a new national coach, Marc Kalkman, who is also working with us. For me it was important to get more confidence in my own strengths. And it is necessary to put energy into my pushing because off the court I always walk.
S`NS: Talk about the 2010 Australian Open. How were you feeling going into the tournament? What are some things that crossed your mind while playing?
Homan: I was a bit nervous before the tournament, greatly in part to being ranked number one seed, and everybody expected me to win, which gives a bit of pressure. Next to this I had a wrist injury and I was only hoping I could keep on playing. My first match was against Daniela diToro, from Australia, which doesn’t make it easier. It was a tough first match, but I won. Unfortunately I had to pull out for doubles because of my wrist. I felt very sorry for Jiske Griffioen, my doubles partner. It was a hard decision, but I wanted to be able to play the singles final. In the final I played a very solid game, and I was really happy I won. During play I was only focusing on how to play, I wasn’t really thinking about the score, but just how to keep on the pressure.
S`NS: Your finals opponent, Florence Gravellier. Talk about her as an athlete, how you felt going up against her.
Homan: Florence is a great player. She has amazing shots and a lot of power. I know the harder I hit a shot, the harder she will return it, so speed is not the way for me to win. It is not easy to play against her, not only because of her shots but also because she never gives up, she keeps on going. Mentally she is very strong.
S`NS: In the moment you captured the championship in Australia, apart from being very excited, what were your thoughts?
Homan: It was a hard decision for me to pull out for doubles, but it was the right decision. My wrist had time to rest, and that is why I was able to play a good final. It was my first grand slam title, I knew I had a good chance of winning, but you still have to do it, so I was proud of myself.
S`NS: Something even more exciting for you has to be being named Female Player of the Year by the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Players Awards. Tell us about this achievement.
Homan: This is of course the choice of people who vote through the web site, and being nominated for it is already a great thing. So winning it is just really amazing, I didn’t expect to win, so it was a great surprise when I read it on the website.
S`NS: Are you setting your sights on Esther Vergeer now? It seems she is the only one who beat you during the 2009 season.
Homan: I have only lost to Esther in over two years. I have been close to Esther, especially during the Paralympics in 2008, and the world championships in November 2009. So I know I am able to win, but knowing and doing is a different thing. I hope this year I will be able to.
S`NS: Has all of your success given you any thought about going pro? I have noticed a lot of your fans are wondering if this might be a possibility?
Homan: I am still studying, and I really would like to keep on going with this combination. As long as I am still able to do my studies as well, I will.
S`NS: Outside of tennis, what are some of your passions? Volunteer, teach tennis to other wheelchair athletes? How does Korie spend her time off court?
Homan: I am a student; last November I finished my bachelor biomedical science. I hope I can start Vet school in September this year. In Holland there is a draw to get in to this studies, so I keep my fingers crossed. It is probably clear that animals are very important for me, so I love spending time with them. I am a volunteer in an animal shelter. I give clinics and exhibitions sometimes, which I like to do, especially to kids. It is really nice to show them there are still a lot of things you can do even when you have a disability.
S`NS: What tips would you give someone interested in pursuing a tennis career? What tips could you offer that help make you a better player?
Homan: It is very important to have a good chair! Next to this, a coach who wants to put a lot of effort in wheelchair tennis, and you need persistence. Nobody becomes number one after five tournaments. Getting better comes with ups and downs, and sometimes it is hard to keep on going, and believing that you will become better. But if you really want to, dreams can be true.