Born locally in Kingston Hospital, 21 year old professional tennis player Melanie Jayne South came to many people’s attention during the recent Wimbledon tournament after defeating the number 1 seeds on Centre Court in the Mixed Doubles event with partner Alex Bogdanovic.
Melanie turned professional at 18 and is now ranked 3 in Great Britain in singles and 1 in doubles with world rankings of 210 and a career high in doubles of 177. Melanie is very local to New Malden where her family still lives, she attended the crčche at Christ Church and her tennis career is still closely followed by those who knew her from such a young age. Melanie and Alex were asked to sign a Wimbledon shirt to be auctioned at the Malden Parochial School Fete and Melanie was pleased to do so as she exclaimed “I used to attend that school”. We caught up with her at the end of July by email whilst she was competing in La Caruna in Spain to find out a bit more.
How long have you lived in New Malden
All my life! I was born in Kingston Hospital in May ’86. I have two brothers Andrew and Stephen. My father used to be a professional footballer and played for Brentford and Fulham and his father was a professional boxer. My parents both work locally; Dad is now a tennis coach at the New Malden Tennis, Squash & Fitness Club and Mum is an Accademic Administrator at The Holy Cross School in Sandal Road. My eldest brother Andrew works in the City and Steve is a website designer (he designed my website www.melaniesouth.net) and also plays in a band The Kicking Pills.
Why when and where did you start playing tennis
Stephen was having lessons at the David Lloyd Club in Raynes Park and I used to pick up the balls, I was about 4 at the time. Mum had taken me to the Malden Centre regularly from the age of 6 months and I could swim by the time I was two. I had swimming lessons and joined the swimming club when I was five but I also started to play tennis at New Malden Club. Then at 6 I played in a short tennis tournament and really enjoyed it and Surrey invited me to the County Training.
Was there any particular player who inspired you when you were younger?
Monica Seles was the player that I most admired and I was very pleased when she played at my club in Wimbledon and let Mum taken a photo of us together, it is still on my website.
Did you play any other sports when you were younger, and do you have time to now?
I enjoyed netball and rounders at school but always enjoyed swimming and still do. I had dancing lessons and got medals for tap, modern and ballet and played badminton and squash at New Malden. Mum took me to athletics at Kingsmeadow on a Sunday which I enjoyed and I also did something called indoor athletics in the sportshall at Tiffins and joined the Tolworth Gym club.
When did you start enjoying success as a tennis player?
I was the Surrey 8 and under Short Tennis Champion and was invited to play on a stand at Wimbledon and at 10 I was the Surrey champion in full tennis and was selected by the LTA to play a tournament in France.
When did you decide you wanted to make a career out of it?
It was always what I wanted to do. My lessons from 8 – 13 were at the Wimbledon Lakeside Club so I always looked across the road at Wimbledon dreaming of playing there one day. I played tournaments both home and abroad and studied for my GCSEs, AS levels and A levels at the same time but always knew that I wanted to become a professional tennis player.
How much of the year do you spend away from home?
About 2/3rds of my time is spent traveling the world competing.
And what do you enjoy doing when you’re back home?
I enjoy meeting up with friends and going for a meal or to the cinema and shopping in Wimbledon and Kingston.
Where do you train when you’re home
I train at the Win Tennis Academy in Bisham Abbey..
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
That was this year at Wimbledon, partnering Alex Bogdanovic in the mixed doubles and playing on Centre Court where we defeated the No 1 seeds who were both No 1 in the world in mixed doubles, it was amazing. To play in front of so many people was just fantastic and I think I played the best tennis of my life out there. Also, last year at Wimbledon when I beat Schiavone, the 11th seed, it was unbelievable again having the home crowd support.
Where have you travelled to so far this year and what’s on your agenda for the rest of the year?
I was in Australia for Christmas, then New Zealand, back to Australia, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Japan for my 21st birthday in May, Wimbledon, Felixstowe and next on the agenda are two tournaments in Spain and then over to the US for the US Open.
What do you enjoy most about travelling the circuit?
Winning matches! That is why I travel, so it has to be the thing I enjoy most. I enjoy seeing the difference in the cultures and scenery.
And enjoy least?
Packing and unpacking, living out of a suitcase and trying to get your kit washed and dried in time for your next match!
And finally, if you weren’t playing tennis, what do you think you’d be doing now?
I have always enjoyed sport and at Nonsuch had a super teacher Nicky Holmes who has become a good friend, perhaps I would have become a sports teacher.
I am sure that you will all join with me in wishing Melanie the best of luck in the coming year. You can follow Melanie’s progress on her own website www.melaniesouth.net
If you are a local business interested in sponsorship then get in touch via the website or give me a call on 0208 605 1380 and I will pass on your details.