Wimbledon 2015: Jordanne Whiley ready to make more history

By Emily CroydonBBC Sport
Britain's calendar Grand Slam champion Whiley on life as a role model
Wimbledon wheelchair doubles tournament 2015
Venue: All England Club. Dates: 10-12 July
Coverage of all games via the BBC Sport website.

Jordanne Whiley's rise to prominence has been so swift that even she hasn't got used to her success yet. So much so that when a letter dropped through her door saying she was to be appointed an MBE, she didn't have a clue what it was.

"At first I thought I'd done something criminal so I was panicking," she said. "I thought it was a speeding ticket or something but then when it actually sunk in I was a bit speechless."

It is little wonder though that Whiley has been recognised in this way - at 23 she has won five Grand Slam doubles titles and in 2014 completed the calendar Grand Slam, winning all four majors in the same year.

She is attempting to defend her Wimbledon title with her Japanese partner Yui Kamiji and is one of a record five Britons taking part in the wheelchair events at SW19.

But things haven't always been easy for Whiley - her disability, Osteogenesis Imperfecta,external-link also known as brittle bone disease, has seen her break 26 bones during her lifetime.

Here, she opens up to BBC Sport about being bullied at school, playing at Wimbledon and her hopes for a successful and inspiring future.

'Tennis an escape from everything'

Jordanne Whiley (left) with Yui Kamiji
Whiley has forged a successful doubles partnership with the 21-year old Kamiji

Brittle bone disease is a genetic condition which Whiley inherited from her father Keith. He won a Paralympic bronze in the 100m in 1984 and later took up tennis. Inspired by him, Whiley started playing the sport at the age of three. This helped her through some difficult times as Whiley was bullied during her school years.

"I didn't really have many friends because I couldn't go out in the playground and do what the other kids wanted to do," she said. "They weren't really interested in hanging out with me stuck in a classroom for playtime.

"I didn't really go to birthday parties or sleepovers or bike rides and at the time I was quite upset about that.

"But I used to go to tennis with my dad and it was an escape from everything else."

She also acknowledges that being around other disability athletes gave her a good perspective on life.

'I broke my leg 26 times' - GB tennis star Whiley

"When I came into tennis I wasn't in a good place, I was being bullied at school and I thought 'why do I have to have scars on my legs?' But then you start a disability sport and you meet someone who has been in a car accident and is paralysed from the chest down and you realise you've got it pretty good.

"It was good for me to bring myself back down to earth."

Despite numerous leg breaks and surgeries as a child, Whiley says her parents were "quite chilled" about her playing tennis because it was a non-contact sport.

"I used to fall out of my chair quite a lot because I'm quite fast. But I've never broken a leg playing tennis. I have broken a rib during a final when I crashed into a fence, but I carried on and won, then went to hospital and had to have four weeks out of training."

'It was incredible, we made history'

After winning the US Open with her Japanese doubles partner last September, Whiley got a new tattoo on her right arm - it says "unprecedented" in Japanese after Kamiji scribbled the word down in Japanese for her on a napkin. Whiley had become the first Briton, disabled or able bodied, to achieve the calendar Grand Slam by winning all four slams in the same event, within the same year.

But when it all started at the 2014 Australian Open she said it never crossed their mind they could actually achieve such a feat.

"We felt that we could win the tournament and we wanted to get our first slam under our belt. When we did that me and Yui sat down and had the conversation 'should we go for the calendar Grand Slam', but at that point I think we were joking."

Jordanne Whiley and Yui Kamiji
The doubles pairing completed their calendar Grand Slam by winning the US Open title at Flushing Meadows

The pair went on to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Whiley's "best moment", and secured the calendar Grand Slam with the title at Flushing Meadows.

"When we finally did it at the US Open it was a weight that was lifted off our shoulders," Whiley said.

"I was so focussed on actually winning the slam that I wasn't aware of how successful I was becoming. It wasn't until I got home and I had quite a lot of media attention that it sunk in that we'd made history."

Whiley and Kamiji followed this up with a fifth successive Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 2015, but were eventually beaten in a close French Open final at Roland Garros in May.

'Winning Wimbledon is every young girl's dream'

For Whiley, winning Wimbledon was the highlight of an incredible year as she had wanted to triumph at SW19 for as long as she can remember.

"That was the only slam we won and I cried at. All the others I was full of joy but it never really hit me, whereas at Wimbledon I was in floods of tears because it meant that much to me.

"It's my home and I feel quite attached to Wimbledon because it's just me. I'm there and I'm British - it's almost like I'm playing for my country even though I'm playing for myself."

Jordanne Whiley and Yui Kamiji
Britain's Jordanne Whiley and doubles partner Yui Kamiji celebrate winning the 2014 Wimbledon ladies' wheelchair doubles title

After being beaten in Paris, Whiley is determined to return to top form and retain the title in West London. Whiley and Kamiji face Britain's Louise Hunt and Germany's Katharina Kruger on Friday.

"It was horrible to lose," she said. "I was quite angry with myself because I felt that I didn't play how I know that I can. But I think what makes a champion is if you come back strong and that's what we're going to be doing for Wimbledon and we're going to make sure we lift that title and show everyone that we're back."

Whiley is confident she does not represent the only chance of British success at Wimbledon this year.

"Andy Murray is a phenomenal player and I don't see any reason why he can't win Wimbledon again. It would be nice if he won and I won - a double success," she said.

'We communicated through sign language'

Yui Kamiji
Whiley says Kamiji is a positive influence on her career even though the two players do not train together

Despite having picked up five major titles together, Whiley explained that she never trains with Kamiji and they only see each other when they are on tour together.

The 21-year old from Japan has had a positive impact on her life since they met in 2013, despite an initial language barrier.

"She didn't speak a word of English - we communicated through sign language!" Whiley explained. "I taught her English and now she's fluent which is amazing.

"She's one of my best friends, we talk nearly every day. She's just really joyful and always happy. It's nice to have a bit of that in my life because I can be quite negative and down on myself and she's always there smiling."

'I want two medals at Rio 2016 Paralympics'

Already a history-maker, it would be easy for Whiley to be content with what she has achieved but she is her own biggest critic.

"I think at the moment I'm underachieving," she said. "After doing the calendar Grand Slam last year it's pushed me on and I want to do more, improve my singles game and get to world number one.

"At the moment my focus is on Rio.external-link I want to definitely get two medals there, at least one of them has to be gold otherwise I'm not going to be very happy!"

'I'm flawed and that's great'

Jordanne Whiley
Whiley has won five Grand Slam double titles and is Britain's youngest ever National women's singles champion in wheelchair tennis, after triumphing at the age of 14

In June, Whiley was appointed an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours and hopes she can now use her success to inspire others.

"I want to help other people and become a role model for people who are disabled and want to play sport, but think that they can't," she said.

"It would be nice to have a role model in society that's not perfect because in my opinion you can't strive to be something that's impossible. I'm flawed and I think that's great because I'm real.

"I'm just a normal person doing what I love and I'm successful which means other people can do exactly the same - not necessarily in tennis, in whatever their dreams may be."

She hopes disabled athletes will one day "become household names" and believes the sport of wheelchair tennis is starting "to get the respect it deserves".

"Even though the standard is a little bit lower, because we are in wheelchairs and you do have disabilities to consider, we train the same amount of hours, we put in the same amount of effort and we're just as talented," she added.

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