At age 10 Woodford’s Chantelle Rigozzi was encouraged by her mum to pick up a tennis racquet and start group lessons with a coach called Mr Holden at the Springwood tennis club.
That memory remains crystal clear.
“It has always been our little project together,” Rigozzi, now 22, proudly told the Gazette last week from Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt where she was competing in an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Pro Tour tournament.
Lots of hard work, talent, ambition and patience has transformed that “little project” into a dream come true. The former Blaxland High School student earned her first Women’s Tennis Association world ranking in singles (1109) to end a busy second half of 2013 where she competed in nine ITF women’s singles and doubles tournaments in Europe and the Middle East.
That means she is now ranked 40 in Australia in women’s tennis and can often enter ITF tournaments without the need to play in qualifying tournaments first.
And she is currently ranked 1131 in the world in women’s doubles, having first earnt a doubles ranking in 2010.
“I played a lot in the Central West Junior Development Series (winning the Springwood round in 2007) and I was fortunate to meet coaches who believed in me and encouraged me to play at a higher level,” Rigozzi said.
“But I think the turning point was when I travelled around the world alone aged 16 looking for a place to practice — I matured very quickly on and off the court.”
But while life on the ITF Pro Tour circuit — one level below the WTA Tour — has plenty of highlights including international travel, opportunities to make friends from all over the world and the chance to rise in the rankings by winning matches, it also presents considerable challenges.
Prize money offered at tournaments is very low (Rigozzi only earned $4004 from the Pro Tour in 2012/13), living costs are high and homesickness can creep in due to being overseas for up to half the year.