The Triangle has another triumphant connection to the world stage.
Abigail Forbes, 18, grew up in Raleigh, was homeschooled and trained at different clubs in the area before winning the junior girls doubles championship at Wimbledon on Sunday. Forbes and her tennis partner, Savannah Broadus, defeated their final opponents 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, after entering the tournament unseeded.
In a Tuesday interview with The News and Observer at the Raleigh Racquet Club, where she often trains, Forbes opened up about her whirlwind week in London — from a redemptive performance in the tournament’s final match, to her narrowly missing meeting the royal family — and how, days after her win, she still hasn’t fully processed her Wimbledon title.
Zietlow: Growing up, where did you train?
Forbes: I train pretty much everywhere in Raleigh. You name it, I’ve probably trained there before. But I come here (to the Raleigh Racquet Club) three times a week. I go to some neighborhood courts called Wimbledon, Wimbledon Tennis Courts. Funny, I know. It’s across the street from MacGregor Downs, and I go there as well.
Zietlow: How did you fall in love with tennis?
Forbes: Through a video game, actually, with the Wii. Wii sports … I got one when I was five and then, I loved to play, like back and forth for hours just on the game, and my dad was like, “Do you want to learn how to play real tennis?” And so he put me in a lesson over at Seven Oaks … My coach at Seven Oaks introduced me to tournaments when I was 8 years old.
Zietlow: A lot of people train every day. How did you become Wimbledon-ready?
Forbes: Well, Wimbledon was always a dream. So it was never really like, “Oh, now I’m ready to go.” I didn’t feel ready to go when I signed up. But my coaches kind of helped me out with that. They’d say, “There’s a reason why you made it into this tournament. You’re ready.”
Zietlow: I’m imagining, as a pro, you get this special, quaint letter that serves as your cordial invitation to Wimbledon. How does it actually work? Is it different as a junior? Is there any sort of qualification?
Forbes: Yeah, it’s based on your ITF (International Tennis Federation) ranking.
Zietlow: What’s your ranking?
Forbes: I’m not sure what it is now. But I know it was 50. To get into the tournament, I was 50. The basic rule of thumb is if you’re top-50, you’re in for sure. But I believe the cut-off this year was around the 70s or 80s. So it varies depending on who can play.
Zietlow: Was Savannah (doubles partner) also in the top-50? How did that relationship start?
Forbes: She’s from Dallas, Texas, so we play a lot of the same tournaments in the States, and when we went abroad for the French Open, we were together out there. And the whole England trip we were together. So we coordinated back in May to play doubles, and we were just like, let’s just play these three tournaments and see what happens, and I guess it worked.
Zietlow: Did it work in previous tournaments as well?
Forbes: We were still learning how to play with each other. We lost in the second round at French Open, and second round at the warm-up tournament before Wimbledon, actually to the girls that we beat in the Wimbledon finals. We played them three times in a row.
Zietlow: Wait, so the team that you beat in the finals of Wimbledon knocked you out of two tournaments prior to your win?
Zietlow: Were you a part of all of the traditions associated with Wimbledon?
Forbes: No, not really. I mean, the States kind of hype it up a little bit. It’s not that big ... The royal family, now: They do their high noon tea and their brunch tea, and people kind of just have tea whenever at Wimbledon. But it’s not like this, “Oh, at five o’clock we must have tea.”
Zietlow: Did you meet Kate Middleton?
Forbes: Funny story.
Forbes: So, before we played our semi-final match, my doubles partner and I were approached by one of the tournament directors, and she came in and she said, “Would you guys like to meet Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton. We’re having a royal visit.” And we were like, “Uh, duh. Yes. We’d like to meet them.” And they were coming at 11:10 a.m. the next morning. Our match was at 11 ... (The tournament directors) didn’t know the schedule was out, so they just found the first semifinalists they could and they were like, “Hey, do you guys want to meet them?”
Zietlow: Why was missing them so heartbreaking?
Forbes: I’ve always loved the royal family, really. I think they’re so cool. And Meghan Markle, being an American in the royal family, that’s pretty cool, so I really wanted to meet her.
Zietlow: So are you a club member for life?
Forbes: That’s only for the pros … I think it’s just a tradition for the men and the women to get, not the juniors.
Zietlow: Things must be moving quite fast for you. And then you’re traveling all day yesterday. Have you gotten any time to absorb anything?
Forbes: No, to be honest, not really. I mean, I’m back to big sister duties. Like I took my brother, Matthew, to practice today. I’ve been running errands, doing all of that stuff, like getting dinner. It’s pretty normal. There’s not really that much time to like to settle down and soak in. I’m actually hopping on a flight tonight to go to orientation because I’m going to UCLA in the fall, so I have to go and sign up for classes and do all that stuff, so I leave tonight for that.
Zietlow: You previously said that your brother, Luke, had been diagnosed with leukemia this summer, while you were traveling to different countries and playing in different tournaments, and that he served as a source of inspiration for you in playing at Wimbledon. What makes you so committed as a sister?
Forbes: It kind of pays back to my mom and dad because when I was little, I used to have to be carted around everywhere and they took me to all my tennis tournaments. My brothers came with me to every tournament when I was little. And so they did the long drives, like we did one to Little Rock, Arkansas. That was 14 hours there and 14 hours back. So they had to sit through all of that. I love taking Matt to practice, I love his classmates at school, his teammates ... it lets me spend so much more time with them.