Paris, France, 26 June 2024 | Leigh Rogers

Australian tennis player Ellen Perez has hit incredible new heights this season, winning her biggest WTA Tour doubles title and peaking at a career-high doubles ranking of world No.7.

This week, the 28-year-old was announced as a member of the Australian tennis team heading to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris next month.

“For me, that’s the highest honour to be able to represent your country and the Olympics is the pinnacle of the sport,” the patriotic Perez said.

“It would mean the world (to win a medal). I would trade in a Grand Slam title to win a medal at the Olympics, that would just be the best for me. Gold is obviously the number one target, but any type of medal would be really cool.”

Born in the New South Wales town of Shellharbour, Perez was just four years old when Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympic Games.

Hearing stories of Cathy Freeman’s historic gold medal-winning run was her first introduction to the significance of the Olympic Games and sparked a life-long appreciation for their importance.

Perez made her own Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, when she was selected to partner Sam Stosur in the women’s doubles event.

Stosur is one of Australia’s most decorated Olympic tennis players, competing at an unmatched five Olympic Games across her stellar career.

“It was super special to play alongside Sam Stosur in my debut at the Olympics,” Perez related.

“Sam was the first pro player I ever got to hit with when I was 14 years old, and I’ve never forgotten that moment and feeling.

“So, to then, almost 10 years later, be playing alongside her for Australia at the Olympics was amazing.”

The duo progressed to the quarterfinals, before bowing out to Swiss combination Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic, who went on to claim a silver medal.

Ellen Perez and Sam Stosur at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Picture: Getty Images

Ellen Perez and Sam Stosur at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Picture: Getty Images

Following the event, Perez and her close friend Storm Hunter, a fellow debutante in Tokyo, had the Olympic rings tattooed on their arms.

“I’ve always dreamt of playing at the Olympics and knew if I ever made it, that I would get the tattoo to commemorate it,” Perez said.

“I’ve always seen getting a tattoo as something I’d only do if I had something meaningful and special to put on my body and that’s exactly what the Olympics was to me.”

Perez and Hunter were roommates in Tokyo, which made getting the tattoos together extra special as well.

“Once the Olympics were over, we had to travel to the US for the hard-court swing,” Perez related of the experience.

“We both decided that post US Open was the best time to do it, as we were going separate ways after that. So as soon as Storm and I finished in the event, we spent that afternoon walking the streets of New York City on the hunt for a place.

“Honestly it wasn’t an easy task to find an artist that would do the rings, as they all said circles are the hardest to do or they were fully booked.

“But you can trust us to never give up, and as a result we managed to get a tattoo just before closing at some random tattoo shop in who knows where in NYC. It turned out perfect.”

Perez will partner Daria Saville in the women’s doubles in Paris.

Saville, 30, previously represented Australia at the Olympics Games in Rio 2016, where she also teamed with Sam Stosur.

“Playing in the Olympics with one of your closest friends on tour is something everyone wishes for,” said Perez, who was a bridesmaid when Daria married Tokyo 2020 tennis representative Luke Saville in December 2021.

“Doubles is especially important to have a good relationship and good communication with the person you’re playing with, and the fact Dasha and I have both of those covered makes us a great duo.

“We have played a few times together and always done well. I think the fact we get along so well and know our roles on the court is an important part to it.

“There would be nothing more special than to play alongside someone like Dasha and to do well. It’s moments like these that the both of us will always be able to look back on together and cherish.”

Perez is also excited to make off-court memories in Paris, after having limited opportunities to do so in Tokyo where strict COVID measures were in place.

“Being able to be in the athlete’s village and meet new people, interact and go to the different sports, that aspect was kind of lost in Tokyo,” she said.

“To see how a real Olympics, I guess in a sense, looks will be really exciting.”

Perez is hoping to soak up more of the atmosphere in Paris, as well as support her team-mates from across different sports.

“I don’t know how much time we’ll have and how close the events are, but there’s a lot I want to see,” she said.

“I definitely want to go to the swimming. I feel like obviously Australia does really well at the swimming and I have a lot of good friends who are on the US team, from going to college at the University of Georgia.

“The skateboarding seemed like a cool event, I think that gained a lot of traction, and seeing the Matildas (Australia’s women’s football team) would be awesome. I think I’d be open to seeing every sport to be honest.”

However, with her determination to win a medal for her country, Perez is also optimistic that her own playing schedule will keep her busy.

“It’s exciting times coming up,” she said.

> This article originally appeared on the Australian Olympic Committee website.