Success was Taylor-made for tennis starlet Jane

Winner 1984

Jane Taylor might still cast an eye over Wimbledon but she admits that tennis simply seems a lifetime ago.

Taylor remains the sole tennis player to have won the Maitland Sportsperson of the Year award in the event’s 50-year history and she is the youngest, having claimed the prestigious prize at age 12.

But the 1984 winner now lives on the Gold Coast where she runs a well-being business and Taylor only occasionally keeps in touch with her sporting past online.

“Tennis feels forever ago,” Taylor told the Mercury. "But it is one of the reasons I like Facebook because travelling can be a lonely existence and a lot of us [from the tour] can catch up even though we are all over the world.

“A few of the girls are still playing and one [Liezel Huber] has just made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in the women’s doubles, so it is lovely to see how they are going.”

Taylor picked up the sport at an early age and after being given a tennis racquet at age five and then travelling around the world with her father and coach Peter for 18 months, the progression onto the court felt natural.

Moving to the Raworth Tennis Centre helped her cause and at age 11 she burst onto the local scene by becoming the youngest winner of the Maitland A-grade ladies singles title.

“I just started playing and really enjoyed it and everything just flowed from there,” Taylor said. “The ladies and the boys were my competition and I never really thought much about it at the time, but looking back now I can see that it was quite a big deal.”

This achievement earned her the 1984 Maitland Sportsperson of the Year award.

In the following years Taylor won an international junior title in New Zealand (1985) before clinching a pair of national crowns in 1988 (under-16 and under-18 singles at the age of 15).

Taylor then spent two years at the Australian Institute of Sport and debuted at the Australian Open in 1989 before visiting overseas majors Wimbledon and the US Open.

She went on to win 10 International Tennis Federation singles titles and four ITF doubles titles, but her career highlight was making the third round of the Australian Open in 1994, which thrust her into the national spotlight.

During her career Taylor came back from two bouts of viral meningitis and a herniated disc before a shoulder injury ended her time on court in 1998.

“It was extremely challenging,” Taylor said, reflecting on her career in its entirety. “There were so many ups and downs; it really was like a roller coaster.”

Jane Taylor

Jane Taylor