Misc Tennis

Ray Wood: How dad’s goal to create ‘two of greatest female tennis players ever’ changed

Liv Wood serving during a practice session in Brisbane

Liv Wood took up tennis at the age of three and this year competed in her first open professional tournament

The occasional weed is sprouting through the odd crack on the green concrete tennis court of the Graceville Uniting Church near Brisbane.

A couple of miles away from the Queensland Tennis Centre, where world number one Iga Swiatek was among the names competing in January’s United Cup, 14-year-old Liv Wood is testing her backhand against pace and spin.

Liv is the eldest daughter of Ray Wood – the Liverpudlian whose dream was to “create two of the greatest female tennis players the planet has ever seen”.

Since my last meeting with the Brisbane-based family in 2018, that goal has changed.

Ray’s eight-year-old daughter Paloma has chosen football instead.

But Liv – who took up tennis aged three – is still pursuing a career in the sport and in January competed in her first open professional tournament.

In recent years, Liv has turned her back on junior tennis in disillusionment at the cheating of players who call their own lines.

She has tried her hand at swimming and Australian Rules Football as tennis took a back seat for a while to guard against injury.

But she figured it would take a long time to get good at either of those sports. So it was time to step it up on the court.

“I’d love to go on to the tour,” says Liv, who was midway through Australian former world number one Ash Barty’s autobiography when we met.

“I know my dream is to become number one, and hopefully it comes true. But I’d love to go on the tour.”

A first taste of the adult professional world

The Bayside Open in Redland Bay, with a total prize fund of 2,100 Australian dollars (Β£1,155), was the venue for Liv’s first open professional tournament in January.

Three events into her fledgling career, against invariably older and far more experienced players, she is still searching for a first pay cheque.

But this is her future now. Her junior career is behind her, as Ray and the family decided when she was 12 that it was too stressful.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure from a lot of the parents. The juniors call the lines themselves and unfortunately you do get a lot of very indifferent calls and it makes it not enjoyable for the kids who are genuine and do play by the rules,” he explains.

“She’s hitting with men and women. Don’t get me wrong, she’s being cleaned off the court some weekends by some really high-level male players but she more than holds her own against female players.”

Liv admits…

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