Cabrera back on track in season 2019
After a challenging 2018 season, Lizette Cabrera feels her confidence is steadily returning - and she's drawing inspiration from her countrywomen on the world stage.
Lizette Cabrera admits she found it hard to deal with the expectations that followed on from her breakout 2017 season.
The 21-year-old Queenslander rose as high as world No.134 in October that year after a string of impressive results at WTA level, most notably reaching quarterfinals in Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
After slugging her way through a challenging season in 2018 during which her ranking fell almost 100 places, Cabrera feels she is starting to rebuild the confidence that took her to the brink of the top 100 almost 18 months ago.
“I was training really well and making a lot of gains in the gym and whatever, but results wise, I had a few at the back end of the year but hadn’t really done anything that amazing that I was really happy with,” she told tennis.com.au in a phone interview from Florida.
“I think (I was dealing with) just more expectation; (in the beginning) you’re a little more fresh on the tour but suddenly people start to know your game a bit better. I think I just struggled a bit with confidence, and didn’t really get any results, so that’s what kind of playing on my mind.
“But I’m feeling really confident right now, I feel I’ve trained really well. Regardless of how I go in the next few weeks, I know that eventually it will start coming back.”
Cabrera is in Orlando this week, working with Jay Gooding – whom she linked up with in 2018, while continuing to work with existing coach Brett Hunter – at the USTA’s National Campus, a training centre at Lake Nona.
She will contest a swing of green clay events throughout the United States before heading to Europe for the red clay season and will then progress to the grass courts of England; a stint of several months away from home.
Aside from a quarterfinal run at the Mildura Pro Tour event – Cabrera said she simply wanted to get some matches – the focus of her month has been a training block, given she missed out on dedicating her time to that in what was an unsettled period at the end of 2018.
“I’ve also had some family stuff go on – my grandpa passed away so I’ve been in and out of Townsville,” she revealed.
“I think it was really nice going home and seeing all the family, because it’s been like over three years since I’ve seen some of my family. And it was really nice, because it was a bit of a tough last season, so it was good seeing how much support I get from back home, and just seeing all the family.
“I’m doing OK emotionally; it’s really motivating because it’s kind of like I’m doing it for my grandpa as well now.”
Cabrera says her focus in 2019 is more about consistent progress, rather than reaching a certain round at a tournament or targeting a specific ranking. She says tangible progress physically, mentally or in her game on the court would make for a successful season.
This year she has posted quarterfinal finishes at two Australian Pro Tour events (Burnie and Mildura) as well as winning a round of qualifying at the Australian Open.
“I think I’m learning more about my game, and more about my identity, and I think as the years go by, if you’re working hard and listening to the right people and you believe in yourself, I don’t think it’s possible to not get better,” she said.
“I definitely feel like a better player, I feel stronger. I just feel like I’m reading the game a bit better. I know I had my breakout at the end of 2017; I look back at it and I think that’s great, but I know I can do better.
“It’s exciting that I’m healthy and I’ll get another opportunity this year to keep building.”
She is also drawing plenty of inspiration from the exploits of Australia’s Fed Cup team in the United States earlier this year.
Cabrera, who was a hitting partner for Australia’s World Group II tie against Ukraine in February 2018, said she watched her countrywomen defeat the US 3-2 in Asheville, North Carolina to advance to the semifinals against Belarus.
“It was such an awesome moment for the girls,” she said.
“I’m supportive of all tennis players, men or women, but I feel like the last two years we’ve made a real push on the women’s side. It’s so good to see, because I feel like now people are starting to talk about us and we’re starting to make a real push.
“(When I was a Fed Cup training partner) I loved it. I thought it was such a fun week, And really inspiring. Just to play for your country, and just one day maybe being on the team. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of as a young girl.
“Hopefully one day, either if it’s this year or next year, or whenever it may be, I’ll get to play for my country.”
Australia will play Belarus in the Fed Cup World Group semifinals on 20-21 April, 2019.