Available on the Tennis Canada website, thanks to the agreement of the ITF
MBOKO BLOG: I JOKED WITH RAFA NADAL ABOUT HOW COLD THE ICE BATHS WERE
Welcome to the first instalment of Victoria Mboko’s blog. The 15-year-old is progressing along the ITF player pathway and is currently contesting ITF World Tennis Tour Women’s events as well as junior tournaments. She represented Canada at the 2019 ITF World Junior Tennis Finals in Prostejov and at the 2021 Junior Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Finals in Antalya. Vicky, who is ranked No. 12 in the girls’ rankings and No. 783 in the WTA standings, has big ambitions for the future and will be writing regular pieces for the ITF, providing insight into her tennis journey. Follow her progress here.
Off court, most people probably see me with my headphones in and me being fairly quiet, although I am now going to be writing a regular blog for the ITF and providing insight into my life as an aspiring tennis player.
While I am Canadian, I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is where my family settled after leaving behind political turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It was in Burlington where I watched my three older siblings – Gracia, Kevin and David – play tennis. They were really keen players and I would see them practice and I guess I fell in love with the sport from there.
When I decided that I wanted to give it a go, my dad, Cyprien, kept feeding me balls and I would run after them constantly. Despite only being about four years of age, he also sorted me lessons at the ACE Tennis Academy and I really enjoyed them.
My appreciation for the game grew and I started winning some local tournaments and then national ones, from where I came to the attention of Tennis Canada. Fast-forward to the present day and, having also trained in Florida, I am in Montreal permanently.
I really enjoy it here and stay with a host family, with whom I have bonded well. While there are times I miss home, I am used to being away, having been on the road – travelling here, there and everywhere – since the age of eight.
In the next couple of months, that journey will see me head for Europe where I hope to feature in the junior draws at Roland Garros and The Championships, Wimbledon for the first time.
Then come some big tournaments back here in Canada – the National Bank Open, for instance – so it is going to be an important period as I look to continue progressing and aiming high.
For me, having new experiences is key and at these upcoming events I will get further chances to be around professional players and those who compete in the big leagues. I cannot wait for the opportunity to do that and to feel the atmosphere at big events.
It was at a Grand Slam – the Australian Open Junior Championships in January – where I had the best experience of my career so far as I made my debut in the main draw there.
Kayla Cross and I then reached the final of the girls’ doubles where we lost to Clervie Ngounoue and Diana Shnaider, but it was a great experience and we got to play on Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena.
We also got to see all the pros in the locker room and one of my biggest idols growing up was Rafael Nadal. In fact, I started playing with Babolat simply because I wanted the same racket as him.
I really looked up to him and used to watch him a lot on television. His aura and presence fascinate me and he was one of the players in the locker room while Kayla and I were in there.
I struck up a conversation – only a short, fun one – about how cold the ice baths were but afterwards I was in shock, and for a young player making their first strides in the pro game that is a moment which will live long in the memory.
That said, though, there is plenty of motivation closer to home with the likes of Felix Auger-Aliassime, Bianca Andreescu, Leylah Annie Fernandez and Denis Shapovalov all young Canadians making their mark on the world stage.
I don’t get to see them too often as they’re off competing but when they do come to the National Training Centre, I see them in the gym and maybe have a hit.
They do, however, bring out a lot of inspiration in young Canadian kids and they are role models for a lot of people, me included. It really is fantastic to see them doing well and it creates a goal path for me and other young, hungry players.
That path saw me play three successive weeks of pro events last month, and there is a very different atmosphere at tournaments compared to juniors. Everyone is older than me and more experienced, so I go not knowing anyone and just focus on myself.
Previously, I had only won three main draw matches on the ITF World Tennis Tour, but at my most recent competition I reached the final at W25 Monastir before losing to China’s Lin Zhu in three sets. It is early days but that felt like a big step forward.
So, that is a little bit about me and my background. As I say, I will be writing regular blogs for the ITF in the coming months, and I will very much look forward to updating you on my tennis journey in the coming weeks.
The countdown to those big tournaments and the Grand Slams in Europe is on and I am working as hard as possible to do well there. Wish me luck!