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Noah Rubin’s “Behind The Racquet” – with Ashley Harkleroad

Editor’s note: 10sBalls thanks Noah Rubin for giving us permission to repost these great stories.

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“At age 14, I was number one in the nation. At age 15, I turned professional and signed a five-year deal with Nike and signed with CAA. By 16, I was number 3 in the world in juniors. At 17, I made the finals of Junior French Open and won a $50,000 challenger event. By 18, I was number 39 in the world. Then I tore a ligament in my elbow. I decided to avoid surgery and took six months off to heal because I needed a break. I had been treating tennis like a job since age 13. I was burnt out and in a dark place.

I developed an eating disorder. I was not handling the pressure of being on tour. My expectations were doubled by those of my family, team and agents. When I took time off, I did not freeze my ranking so it fell from inside the Top 50 to outside the Top 200. Eight months later, I felt mentally and physically strong enough to play again. My Nike contract was over and I had to pick up the pieces. My elbow felt better but never fully healed. At 19, I got married to fellow tour player Alex Bogomolov. At 21, we got divorced. We were not happy and needed to go our separate ways. I’m from the South and girls from the South tend to get married and have babies at a young age. This was always in the back of my mind. I knew my tennis career would not last very long. I met my current husband Chuck Adams. He traveled with me for three and a half years on tour. Lindsay Davenport and I played Fed Cup together after she gave birth to her son. I really wanted to have a baby. At 24, I had my first child and returned to the circuit before retiring the next year.

My highest professional ranking was number 39. I was never known for being the most mentally solid on court. Yet I had the opportunity to be on the cover of Playboy because of tennis. My Playboy cover highlights my tennis career and reflects my free spirit. I don’t have any negative feelings about Playboy. There are some things I would have done differently on tour. I would have lived in the moment instead of constantly thinking about my future. I would have explored new places instead of sticking to the same routine. I am very thankful for tennis and everything it has given me. It opened many doors in my life.”

Ashley Harkleroad – Photo By Behind The Racquet

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