It has been 10 years since Fontaine Chapman first played at the YONEX All England Championships – an event which she has both volunteered and worked at before making the first round for the first time in 2015. Here, she describes her journey.
"I first played as a qualifier against, funnily enough, Nicola Cerfontyne in 2006. It was in the days before it changed into a Superseries event it is now and became impossible to get into.
I remember playing the under-17 Home Countries and I played the All England two days later on the back of winning that. I was certainly nervous; I had just won an under-17 event and here I was playing in Birmingham!
But I also got injured for four years and that’s when I worked at the All England. I helped out as a journalist (I’ve just finished my Masters in Journalism) for the Badminton World Federation and I was up in the commentary box working on stats with Gillian Clark. I was also doing post-match interviews down in the mixed zone.
My county Warwickshire also used to help out cleaning the courts and I used to attend the event every year from when I first starting going as a 10-year-old. I did once mop one of Lin Dan’s games. I must have been young as the only thing I can recall is my T-shirt drowning me when I went on court to do my duties.
I watched Denmark's Camilla Martin win the final in 2002 and she made me want to be a singles player. It was a defining moment for me seeing her play, especially as she was the only European player in the final. I thought to myself ‘So it can be done then!’
When I was injured I also watched Martin's compatriot, Tine Baun. The Dane had gone through her share of injuries and she won the All England in her thirties. She was older than some of the top Asian players, so I started to look at how she reached this point.
Only five years previously, she was winning International Challenger tournaments. I could see her pathway and I aimed to follow that. It was certainly inspirational even though it’s a tough road to go down.
But it's important to have those players who have inspired you as you go through a career. Perhaps 20 years down the line, there might be an England junior who was inspired by what I have done. That would be amazing.
Winning the nationals is not a world title or has any bearing on your world ranking, but for me it’s a big deal for me to say you are the country’s best player. It’s an important step and Gillian actually messaged me to say that it’s good to have the trophy back in Coventry!
At the 2015 YONEX All England, when I finally got the chance to be there as a player, I was on court at the same time as Rajiv Ouseph. I was playing the number four seed, Korea’s Sung Ji-hyun, so I really had little chance of winning. But the experience was brilliant, even if my coaches were telling me to focus on my game as I looked to see how Raj was getting on!
But just by being on court and having the crowd behind you was one of those feelings you wish you could experience every time you step on court. It definitely helps to raise your game."
Eurosport will broadcast the 2016 YONEX All England. Schedule and info here
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