Growing up in a family where your voice and talents go by unnoticed, you learn to believe that the word “hope” doesn’t exist. You learn to believe that the labels people tag onto you are true. You begin to believe that you are just a shivering soul, helpless and unworthy of life.
As a child I surely wasn’t the fittest or most striking boy, but my chubby and “cute” appearance often got me some attention… from the elderly. My skin was an olive brown, while my hair was dark and rough like that of a Bosnian coarse-haired hound. By the time I got to year seven, I had a growth spurt making me one of the tallest, yet plump boys in my grade. I thought that being taller than everyone else would end the hurtful labels that people had tagged onto me throughout my primary school life. I obviously thought wrong.
“Loser. Brat. Fatty.”
These were probably the nicest labels out of the lot, the rest are rather too hurtful for me to even write down.
At the age of eight, my father wished for me to play tennis. My parents paid for private coaching lessons, which I felt were useless considering I had no enthusiasm for the sport. I tried to show them that I wanted to play basketball, not tennis. But it seemed like they intentionally tried to ignore me. My father would drag me to the tennis courts every Sunday to see how much I had improved on my skills. I didn’t understand why he wanted me to play the sport so badly. He knew that I was clearly overweight and that my lungs would begin to collapse after one game on the court.
At the age of fourteen, it was my decision as to what career path I wanted to follow. My tennis coach had suggested for me to start training professionally and it was quite clear that I had lost some weight too. I have to admit, over the years my passion for tennis did begin to develop, but my fervour for basketball was much greater. As I looked into my parents’ eyes, I saw the glimmer of hope and potential they saw in me. How could I say no after all these years of training?
And so that was it. I began training professionally, in our city’s most renowned tennis centre, travelling to and from the courts every week.
At the age of seventeen, I won my first real tournament and was titled the 2013 boys singles champion at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Last month I played the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament- ‘The Wimbledon Championships.’ I had made it to the quarter final round which was huge for me considering my age. As we all know, different people react differently to different situations. I am the type of person who remains honest to myself and cannot hide emotions. Of course no one likes to lose at anything and neither do I. Throughout the match I was disappointed in myself, talking to myself in an attempt to regain my confidence.
As I came out of the match, reporters and writers tagged me with all sorts of labels. The labels that I thought had left me years ago.
“Arrogant. Disrespectful. Spoilt.”
All those horrifying encounters flood back into my mind, making me feel nauseous. But then I realise, I am no longer the shivering soul, no longer the child without a voice, but I am a warrior who wears his shield with pride.
“Proud. Strong. Resilient.”