Harriet Dart on returning from illness to compete in Canberra, training culture amongst the Brits and goals for 2024
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We’re only a week in to 2024 but it’s already been a crazy start to the season for British No.3 Harriet Dart.
The 27-year-old kicked off the year by making the biggest final of her career at the Canberra WTA 125, just days after being ill during her flight Down Under.
At the start of the week, Dart sat down with Nelson Parker and Reza Tompsett of the Tennis Culture podcast to chat about the Australian summer of tennis, travelling on tour, her tennis journey and the British stars coming through on the WTA Tour.
“I was actually sick for about five days before coming here, so I haven’t had the best preparation,” Dart opened with when asked about her preparations coming into Canberra.
“We were actually in a hospital in Bangkok because of really bad food poisoning. So, we ended up leaving (the UK) on the Monday evening and arriving Thursday lunchtime! When I arrived, I barely got any practice.”
Despite the lack of time on the practice court coming into the week and a tough three-set battle in her opening round match against Anna-Lena Friedsam, the world No.114 went on to have a stellar week in the Australian sun.
Dart battled her way through to her first singles final at WTA-level, where she eventually finished runner-up to Spain’s Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-4, 6-3.
The Brit finished 2023 on a high – helping the Lexus GB team reach the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers and making the W100 Takasaki final. After an impressive end to the year, Dart told the Tennis Culture podcast she has strong hopes for the coming season.
“I do have some big goals (for this year),” she said. “Towards the end of last year, I was really starting to enjoy my tennis more after a bit of a tough time at the start of the year.
“This year, I want to just stay healthy and then try to make it to the second week of a Slam – I haven’t been able to do that yet.”
Having gained a wealth of experience of life as a tennis star competing at the top of the game, Dart has learnt a lot about herself and what it takes to continue to push on further throughout your career.
“It’s a brutal sport – especially professional tennis,” she explained. “It has so many highs and lows – it’s all about trying to stay level and I think it’s easy to look back in hindsight but really, it’s about just keeping on plugging away. Everyone is on their own path and that’s a massive thing.
“You see people breaking through at like 16, 20 or 25 and it’s becoming a lot later on the women’s side. Just try to remember you’re on your own path because as juniors your can get so worked up about everything else rather than just focusing on themselves. It’s hard and often if you aren’t in it, you might not see that, you only see the end product.”
Dart’s Billie Jean King Cup teammates Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage have previously featured on the podcast and presenters Parker and Tompsett were eager to get her thoughts on the growing number of British players climbing the rankings on the WTA Tour at the moment.
“I think we’ve always had really good talent across women’s and juniors, but to be able to break through is really tough and you’ve got to be able to do it week in and week out,” Dart said.
“All of us can play amazing tennis, it’s just about being able to do it more often and that gets reflected in the rankings.
“We all train together at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton and we all push each other – especially during the pre-season as we’re all there. I think it’s great, especially for the younger players to be able to practice with us as well.
“We have some great young players who I think will do exceptionally well this year and for us ‘oldies’ I think now we have the experience and have been in some of those big moments, so you know what to expect and settle a bit more.
“It’s massively important (the training culture). The LTA have provided a great environment for us to practice in, everything is on site for us, including physios, etc. We’re able to tap into such a great facility and that training environment allows us to feed off each other. We’re all pretty good friends which helps – it’s not just the women’s side either, it’s the men’s as well.”
Dart will turn her attention to Australian Open qualifying this week where she begins her campaign against world No.201 Nuria Brancaccio.
Listen to the full episode of the Tennis Culture podcast via the links below: