I was born in Split, Croatia and named after my paternal grandmother.
At age 6 two significant events took place in my life, firstly I moved with my family from Croatia to New Zealand and secondly I started to play tennis.
I arrived in NZ not speaking a word of English and after starting school in Auckland my life as a New Zealander started. I am now bilingual and proudly have dual heritage.
My family are such an important part of my life. My dad Mladen, mum Ljiljana, sister Julia and maternal grandmother all live in Auckland, New Zealand.
Dad is a “ship’s captain” and spends much of his shore leave travelling offshore with me to tournaments while Mum, a senior lecturer at University of Auckland Business School, has been the central anchor at home with Grandma.
Between them the Erakovic household is renowned for its wonderful culinary delights. Sister Julia who has been a sparring partner to me over the years is now a solicitor in Auckland. Fortunately she stays closely in touch with me while i'm away.
Up until I was 18 years old I attended Glendowie High School in Auckland. Despite being away so much, my friends from school remain a really important part of my life.
Along with my tennis gear, I travel with my electric guitar. I really enjoy playing and composing when on the road during the many hours spent in hotel rooms. Soccer is another interest of mine and I love incorporating football skills into my tennis warm ups and training routines.
On the tennis front it was when Julia started to play tennis that I wanted to join in and it was at the local courts with the family that my tennis life began.
My first coach was NZ tennis great Chris Lewis and he was a huge part of my formative years from age 8-17. My junior days saw me capture all of the age group titles in NZ before going on to become world junior (ITF) number 5 and the Junior Grand Slams doubles winner at the US and Australian Opens and the runner up at Wimbledon.
Here's a few interesting tennis firsts that I've managed to achieve over my career to date:
- I was the first Kiwi tennis player to have been ranked in the world’s top 50 (July 2008) since Belinda Cordwell (1988) and Brett Steven (1997)
- I was the first NZ woman player in 35 years to go past the first round at both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year
- In making the last 32 at 2008 Wimbledon, it was the furtherest a Kiwi woman had progressed at Wimbledon in 20 years (since Belinda Cordwell - round of 32 in 1988)
- By making the main draw in the 2008 French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open (via my own ranking), I broke a 9-year drought for NZ tennis to have a Kiwi produced player in any main draw Grand Slam singles.
- In Beijing 2008 Olympics I became the first Kiwi tennis player to play in a singles event at the Olympics since Brett Steven in 1996 (Atlanta)
- I am the only NZ female to hold a Grand Slam title (Junior Doubles winner at US Open 2004)
- I was the first NZ female to be ranked in the Top 5 Juniors in the world (ITF World Junior number 5 2005)
(photos courtesy of Metro magazine and Charles Howells)