“I’m so proud of my mum for what she does, and the whole of the NHS” – Britain’s Freya Christie on training from home and her inspirational mum
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By Sarah Edworthy
Thud. Thud. Thud! Were they to peer into her garden, Freya Christie’s neighbours would see the curious sight of the 22-year-old practising her serve with the help of a large bathmat pegged on to the family washing line.
“Training has become quite a challenge,” says former world No. 286 Freya, over the phone from her Nottinghamshire home. “I’ve been hitting and volleying on the wall outside my house, but my mum said I better aim my serving practice away from the house, because if I missed, I’d break one of our windows and she wouldn’t be happy about that!”
It is thanks to her mother, Carol Bloomer, that Christie discovered a love of the sport, when she was dropped off as a five-year-old at a kids’ tennis session while her mum went to a keep-fit class. Carol – who has worked for the NHS for 38 years, 11 of those as a hospital ward sister and the rest as a full-time community district nurse, specialising in orthopaedic care – has always emphasised the importance of health, fitness and helping people, always leading by example.
“She goes to the gym at 6am before she sets off on her nursing shift at 8am every day. Mum enjoys her fitness. And when I’m travelling for tournaments, she always checks I’ve got my vitamins and reminds me to take them every morning, because I’m very prone to only taking them when I feel I might be getting sick. She’s big on salad, and eating lots of vegetable of different colours. She’s always reminding me to keep my immune system up.”
One advantage of being holed up at home when she might otherwise have been travelling between tournaments is that Christie is now with her mum each Thursday when the nation unites for the Clap for our Carers. “It is a worrying time because she’s still seeing patients. I see her go off to work with a protective mask, apron, gloves and hand gel, and there’s a lot of strict hand-washing in the house,” she says.
“I’m so proud of my mum for what she does, and the whole of the NHS. The first Clap for the Carers was just such a nice moment to know the whole of the UK were out showing their gratitude,” she says. “Everyone on our street was on their front doorsteps clapping. Across the road from us, people were standing on their balconies, waving flashlights and cheering. You could hear the whole street come alive with their own cheers and tributes. Some people even let off fireworks, which took us by surprise. It was definitely a big moment for mum. Our neighbours, who obviously know she’s a nurse, were saying ‘Well done. We’re proud of what you’re doing.’ Everyone felt emotional, and that continued afterwards, when everyone was sharing their videos of their towns on social media.
Christie’s 2020 season goals were to stay healthy, injury-free and propel herself up the rankings. Despite the uncertainty, she has explored new types of fitness work, participating in group sessions online with other players, going on lots of long runs, sharing tips with other players and discovering yoga. “Our video calls create a fun atmosphere which is good for training. It’s important to keep in contact with everyone as a group. I am the task player/coach for the University of Nottingham so I’ve also been doing a lot of group coaching calls with the team, planning sessions for next term.”
As she continues to work to develop her fitness and talent following the cancellation of the grass-court season, she is fuelled by two career highlights. “As a junior in 2015, I played on No.1 Court at Wimbledon in the semi-finals of the junior doubles with mum watching on from the Players’ Guests box. For her to see me walk out with my partner in front of the home crowd cheering for two Brits was really special,” she recalls. “When I was younger, she was the one who dropped me at training sessions. After working hard all week as a nurse, she was happy to drive long journeys at weekends to take me to tournaments all over the country. She would do anything to support me.”
Last year, Christie and Katie Swan were awarded a Wild Card to play in the main draw doubles, where they met the Belgian duo Greet Minnen and Alison Van Uvytvanck in the first round. It was a close first set, and a match with captured the attention of spectators milling around the outside courts, but they eventually lost 7-5, 6-2. “To play in a Grand Slam main doubles draw was an incredible experience. Mum was there, with my family, and great support. As soon as spectators see Brits on court, the cheers go up.” It was here that Christie reached a career high doubles ranking of 192.
Over in the States, Christie’s former Wimbledon doubles partner has been going the extra mile to help her mum support the local community in recent weeks. The 21-year-old Fed Cup star has been helping to deliver care packages to vulnerable households in Kansas as part of an organisation set up by her mum. So far the Swan’s have been able to help over 135 families in the local area as the young Brit continues to go above and beyond to ensure the community stays safe in these testing times.