Trust the process.
It's a mantra Philadelphia 76ers fans know well. And it's a mantra emerging Shellharbour tennis talent Ellen Perez has become familiar with throughout a challenging year.
Embarking on her first full year on the professional tennis circuit after a three-year college career, Perez has faced multiple setbacks both on and off the court.
As the injuries mounted and she struggled for consistent singles results, Perez was regularly reminded to trust the process. That if she continued working hard, the results would eventually follow.
Like the 76ers, who finally re-emerged as an NBA contender after three years near the bottom of the ladder, the process ultimately brought results for Perez. The 23-year-old has surged into the top 200 in the world, currently sitting at a ranking of 185, on the back of a successful Australian Pro Tour swing.
There she made four-straight singles finals and defeated some of Australia's most promising emerging talent. She also made a mark in the doubles format, partnering with the experienced Arina Rodionova to win two ITF titles.
“The last few tournaments have been really good,” Perez said. “I’ve gone deep in the last few tournaments and have really found some good form.
“I attribute the results to all the hard work I’ve put in. I didn’t have the best year through the middle, but I just trusted the process, put in the hard yards and eventually built up some confidence and got some wins on the board.”
With the Australian summer of tennis starting to ramp up, Perez is set to face a number of tough challenges in the coming months.
The first of which is next week's Australian Open Wildcard Playoff, where she will battle it out against 15 fellow emerging Australian female tennis players for direct entry into the first grand slam of 2019.
While acknowledging the level of competition will be intense, Perez is confident she has the talent to make a deep run at the tournament in Melbourne.
“I’m confident I’ll give it a good crack, I’ll compete well and try my hardest. Everyone is playing good tennis, so it will definitely be tough, but I’m definitely going into it confident and ready to compete.
“Momentum is a big thing, I’m coming off a bit of form and I’ve played a lot of these Aussie girls recently, which plays to my advantage. It won’t be easy though.”
When at her best, Perez has proven she has the ability to go toe-to-toe with higher ranked rivals. At the 2018 Sydney International, she outplayed then-world number 11 Kristina Mladenovic, who wilted in the summer heat while Perez thrived. This year, she hopes to repeat that performance on a more consistent basis and eventually crack the world's top 100.
“I would love to make the main draw of the Australian Open. Last year I played Sydney and won a round, and I just want to continue playing high-level opponents and getting wins on the board. The next step is playing top-100 players and seeing I belong at that level.
“The top 100 is the goal. A lot of points separate where I am, so it’s not easy, but it is possible. If things track the way they have been, it’s something that is within reach. It’s just about starting the summer off right and progressing from there.”