Jodie Burrage: Kicking Her Tennis Career Into a Higher Gear
British tennis rising star, Jodie Burrage is officially a Prevayl Pro. With four singles titles and five doubles titles on the ITF Circuit under her belt, and at only 22 years of age, the young athlete has already had a whirlwind of a career.
Most 18-year-olds contemplate whether to go to university or take a gap year. For Jodie, her choice would be much more life-altering. In fact, the British junior prospect would have to decide whether her career had already run its course.
In 2016, Jodie suffered her first of three ankle injuries. In the wake of the first surgery -desperately wanting to return to the courts – Jodie got to play for eight whole months before picking up a second injury which inevitably led to a 2017 operation.
All good things come in threes, a saying which is probably lost on Jodie as she would suffer yet another ankle related setback in 2019 – her third by the age of 20. Whilst awaiting the results, the image of a new operating theatre was already in the forefront of her mind. She recalls saying to herself that if another surgery was needed, she would stop tennis and abandon her dreams of going pro altogether. She would head off to university instead.
“I would have tried my best, I would have given it my best shot, I did everything right mentally and physically, it’s out of my hands.
“I’ve already had two operations by the age of eighteen, this is too much.”
Unfortunately for Jodie, the prognosis would be a third operation, she would have to go under the knife again. Fortunately for British tennis fans, the young prospect, showing great strength and mental fortitude – rarely seen in someone of her age – decided to stay true to her calling and stick with tennis.
“I’m glad I powered through. I’m still using that mentally to this day. Now, I know what I’m made of, I’ve shown I’ve got the fight in me.”
Jodie shares how lockdown impacted her training, and whilst she couldn’t practise her serve or slice a ball for over two months, she made the most of the situation.
“I used Covid to enhance my fitness. I’m quite a powerful player but my movement and stamina needed to improve. I would do one session over the phone with my coach and my teammates and the second I’d do with my boyfriend Ben [White]. It was great because we’re both really competitive.”
Jodie has made great strides in her mental training too. Since Covid, she’s been working with a new sports psychologist and the results have drastically changed the way she approaches an upcoming match.
“We looked at my on-court routines and constructed new ones that help me calm down and think clearly when I’m in a tough spot.
“Let’s say I’ve just missed a shot, now, I’ll turn away from the court and ‘’simply’’ erase what’s just happened. I’ll then take my towel and wipe my face. This just gives me a bit of time to calm my heart rate down and get the negative thoughts out of my head. I can then plan on what I need to do to win the next point, because the next point is all that matters now.
“Before I serve, I’ll jump up and down a little, just to get myself going again. These are all small things, but they have a massive impact on the way I now approach a match.”
Reset, deep breath, ball toss, serve, these are some of the words that feature on Jodie’s racket.
Another idea which stemmed from Jodie’s sports psychologist. His reasoning is that by placing stickers on her tennis racket, Jodie will remember what she needs to focus on during a match. Even for someone like Jodie, who’s played tennis her whole life, it’s very easy to forget the fundamentals during tense situations.
“If I’m struggling with my serve one week, I’ll name a sticker ‘serve’. It just reminds me to stay sharp in between points and stay focused for the next one.”
In 2020, during Battle Of The Brits, Jodie shocked the tennis world by beating number fourteen ranked, Johanna Konta on opening day.
“I took a lot of confidence from that match, I remember when it came down to the big points, I was able to stick to my game plan: don’t think about who I’m playing , just play the ball, just play the next point.”
Day two of Battle of The Brits would prove just as eventful for Jodie, as she would be partnered with her sporting hero, Andy Murray.
“Andy made a big effort to make me feel comfortable which really helped, and when I was on the court and my nerves started to subside, he even gave me a bit of banter.
“We partnered well together, we had good chemistry and bounced off each other.
“Unfortunately, we lost, but we played a good match against two top players [Joe Salisbury and Emma Raducanu], I think I handled the occasion pretty well.”
Earlier this year, Jodie made her Wimbledon debut. Looking back, she admits it may not have gone to plan but takes great pride in being able to tick that off her list.
“In terms of tennis it just wasn’t my day, the positive thing is that I didn’t lose my head, I kept a straight face, I managed not to embarrass myself tennis-wise. A few years ago, I probably would have lost my head, and I would have looked a lot less professional than I did.
“I’ve learnt a lot from it, I’ve learnt that I need to be honest with myself before I go on the court, if I’m nervous that’s fine, but just acknowledge and accept it.”
Jodie was able to put these new skills into practice by securing a win over Robin Montgomery at the US Open in August. Jodie remembers being nervous, but she was able to embrace the occasion and remain calm.
“Sometimes you’re going to be nervous, and it’s a good thing. If you’re not nervous you don’t care as much. I’ve learned a lot when it comes to dealing with the big occasions and it’s nice to see it pay off.”
Jodie has big aspirations for the future, within the next six months, she wants to be ranked within the top one hundred and fifty women in the world.
“I regularly play at that level, and I can play there, it all comes down to who deals better with the situation on the day.”