Everything happens for a reason. I have heard it, preached it and always tried to have faith that it is true. When life hands you some adversity, it's happening for a reason. Sometimes that reason presents itself right away while other times you have to wait a little longer. For me, the wait lasted about four months.
During the Australian Open in January, my doubles partner informed me that she needed to focus exclusively on singles and give up doubles indefinitely. Though it wasn't easy to digest at first, I totally understood. I was a singles player as well and know how demanding the sport can be of your body. Sometimes the body can't keep up week in and week out, so something has to give, and doubles is the natural sacrifice for a top-ranked singles player.
Once the disappointment subsided, the panic set in. I began to think about what this meant for me and the impact that it would have on what is left of my career. We had planned on playing the year together and there I was, in January, having to find someone else. Otherwise retirement was going to happen a lot sooner than planned. I have always said that when the day comes that I don't think I can compete at the highest level and be in contention to win Slams, I will put down the rackets. What I knew in that moment of panic was that I was not ready to walk away just yet.
At that point, I pleaded -- begged -- my friend and former doubles partner Sam Stosur to play some events with me until I was able to find something more permanent. Sam and I played doubles together for a number of years and had a lot of success as a team. Sam has since become a Grand Slam singles champion and
consistently a top-10 singles player. Thus singles is Sam's priority.
Doubles presents an opportunity for her to get more court time at an event to work on somethings that she wants to implement in her singles game. She agreed to play the Slams with me as well as a few other events here and there. Not ideal but I was so grateful to my good friend. I had someone to play with in some of the bigger events and thought we could do well with some work. So, we gave it a shot.
We started playing after the Australian Open. A few events with some mixed results but nothing some court time and practice couldn't fix. Then, in her quarterfinal singles match in Indian Wells, Sam got injured. She strained her calf muscle and was unable to play her next match. The Sony Open in Miami was only a few days away and it was apparent that she was going to have to pull out of that as well due to the injury. So, once again, I was without a partner with only a couple days to try to find someone.
As expected at that late date, most teams were already set and the options were very limited. My management firm suggested we apply for a wild card into the event with a fellow Octagon player, Laura Robson. She was looking for a partner as she hadn't played much doubles in the past year and she didn't have a high enough ranking to gain direct entry into the tournament.
Despite her lower ranking, I was well aware of Laura and her game. I had played doubles against Laura once on the grass, have seen her play singles on the big stages, and witnessed her silver medal performance at the London Olympics. I knew she had a big game and thought we could make a good combination. All of a sudden my dire situation didn't seem so dire.
The tournament was nice enough to award us the wild card and less than two weeks later, Laura and I were in the finals. The partnership clicked instantly. We played very well throughout the tournament, taking out three of the top teams including the No. 1 team in the world and had a lot of fun in the process. We quickly became "Team Robmond" in the media and Twitter world.
Being back in the finals was exciting but the best part of it all wasn't the results. It was that Laura is only 19 years old and I am old enough to be her mother! Laura is 19 and I am 39. Yes, you read that correctly -- 20 years divide us. The first year I played in the Sony Open was 1994, the same year that Laura was born. Some might describe our partnership as "experience meets youth." We are at completely different ends of the spectrum regarding our careers. Laura was going for her first title in Miami; I was trying for my 80th.
Despite the generation gap, we actually have more in common than one might expect. We both have a love for strange horror films, 80s music that she refers to as "the oldies," and a pre-match warmup routine that involves throwing the football around. I may not know some of the music she listens to or who is following who on Twitter, but we get along brilliantly.
A much older sister ... a doubles mentor ... call it what you like. On court we complement each other well. Laura is a big hitter with huge returns, a lefty serve and she has height. Her strengths allow me to do what I do best in being active at the net and taking advantage of all of those big shots. She brings an energy and eagerness to the court everyday that makes it fun for me, something that can be taken for granted after all of these years. Maybe it's seeing the world through the eyes of a 19-year-old, and the youthful exuberance that comes with it.
And so here I am, four months after that conversation in Melbourne, feeling excited about this next chapter of my career. Laura and I are going to continue to play together beginning this week in Madrid. I have no idea what will become of Team Robmond, how good we may or may not be or what the future may hold. But one thing I do know: We'll have a good time figuring it out.
-- Lisa Raymond has won 79 WTA titles and 11 Grand Slams as a double player as well as an Olympic bronze medal in mixed doubles. Follow her on Twitter @lisaraymond73. Check out her Facebook page LisaRaymondOfficial.