By Sandra Harwitt
There are people who have little understanding or experience involving the old adage: What a difference a year can make. Liezel Huber is not one of them.
Last year, when Huber and her husband-coach, Tony, were traveling the European spring tournaments they were also busy working on a life-changing decision for their family: adopting a baby.
This year, they’re traveling the tour with eight-month-old Joshua Jacob in tow. It was last year at the Birmingham, England tournament they learned they were matched with a birth mother from Orlando, who gave birth to Joshua with Liezel and Tony in the delivery room at the end of September 2012.
Adoption became the Huber’s first choice to have a child after they visited the Mother Teresa Orphanage in Hyderabad while Liezel was playing a tournament in India.
“It’s as dirty as anything outside, but inside you could eat off the floors it’s so clean,” Huber said of the orphanage. “That’s when we decided we’d adopt. We always thought (an) international (adoption), like Guatemala but they stopped the program. Then we said why go outside when we have so many babies here. So it just so happened we went to Orlando for our baby.”
But Huber admits the process of adopting was like riding a roller-coaster and wondering when it was going to stop.
“Oh, we’ve decided to adopt a baby, oh the paperwork,” said Huber, describing the stages adoptive parents go through before finding their baby. “Oh, we’ve finished the paperwork and then the wait. Then is she going to change her mind. It’s like so up-and-down. I say do it if someone wants to, I’m for it 100 percent. But the journey, I don’t know if we would do it again, I can’t say no. If someone came to me today and said there was a baby born yesterday I’d say yes, but that whole wait.
“Its been very emotional. We love his family, his birth family. After the (adoption) finalization we’ve been to visit them. We stopped by and had dinner with them.”
Last year awaiting a baby. This year traveling with baby. And as you might guess, Joshua is one well traveled infant, racking in frequent flier miles and filling up his passport with stamps. Here’s all the places he’s been so far in proper order according to mom: “Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, Sydney(Australia) Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Paris(France), Munich(Germany), Holland(Netherlands), Copenhagen(Denmark), Bologna(Italy), Frankfurt(Germany), Doha(Qatar), Dubai(UAE), Washington DC, Texas, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Frankfurt(Germany), Stuttgart(Germany), Frankfurt(Germany), Holland(Netherlands), Copenhagen(Denmark), Madrid(Spain), Rome(Italy), Copenhagen(Denmark), Brussels(Belgium), Paris(France). Next off to England!”
It didn’t take Huber very long after beginning to travel with a baby and all the baby paraphernalia to wonder how Kim Clijsters ever won Grand Slam titles after having a baby. In truth, eight months into it and Huber knows retirement from pro tennis is just around the corner.
“I’m not going to be on the road forever because the boy is too busy,” said Huber, who also showed off her swollen wrists from constantly holding the nearly 20 pound Joshua. “And we don’t have to be on the road. We have a lot of things we enjoy outside of tennis. And we have a lot of other business ventures we are enjoying.”
She admitted that Tony would prefer she not think about whether retirement is imminent and just play without that in her mind. But ever the outspoken sort, Liezel couldn’t conceal the obvious.
“It is my last year, I’m not going to keep playing,” said Huber, ignoring Tony’s wish she not discuss it. “My son will be a year at the U.S. Open. The goal is to finish in Australia next year and that’s because I love Australia and then we can go and have a vacation there.”
She also admitted that the retirement date could be altered, suggesting by the end of the U.S. Open she might tell her husband, “It’s too much.”
“It’s tough,” Huber said. “He’s sick now, he has bronchitis. And since we’ve been in Europe he’s not sleeping through the night and he’s getting so big he’s having a feeding during the night. There was one night I only had 45 minutes of sleep. We do have a nanny with us, but it’s my responsibility.
“What I’ve realized now in the last few weeks are that my priorities are my son, yet I still want the results in the tennis. And that’s the struggle for me — he’s my main priority so what am I going to do different. There aren’t enough hours in the day to add more tennis.”
As an example of Huber’s struggles, Roland Garros was already in close down mode for the night on Wednesday when shel came to chat with a couple of American journalists. The 36-year-old former doubles No. 1 didn’t even try to hide her fatigue, nor would she have been able to as her half-lidded eyes told it all: playing two matches in one day — even mixed doubles — is too much for any mid-30-year old. Weather and the lateness of matches forced the double match schedule for Huber on Wednesday.
In between the two matches, Huber was with her baby doing mom things: feeding, changing a diaper, etc. She has an au pair from Sweden, but the type of person who puts her all into everything she tries to do as much of what Joshua needs by herself.
Huber and her mixed partner, Marcelo Melo, the eighth seeds, took out her former doubles partner Lisa Raymond and Bruno Soares, the fourth seeds, 64 64 in the quarterfinals. Later in the day, however, they played tough to a Super Tiebreaker, but ended on the wrong side of the semifinal, losing to Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak 3-6, 6-2, 1/0(3).
“At my age, it’s the worst to play two matches in one day and my situation is more strenuous than other people, but I am not having a pity party here, it’s what I choose,” Huber said. “But playing two matches at age 36, at the end of the second match, we just got overpowered. You can’t recover on the same day. Maybe you can from late night to the next day but you need those reserves built up in you.”
While Huber said she is overjoyed having Joshua and that he’s brought so much to their family, she does suggest she might go a different route the next time around.
“I do think Joshua should have a brother or sister because he will be too spoiled otherwise,” Huber said.. “He’s the happiest baby because he gets attention all the time. Someone is always holding him. But I don’t know if we’ll adopt again. I’ll try a biological (pregnancy) next time, I think. Adoption is very emotional.”
Of course, Huber might have too late second thoughts on that choice once she experiences the emotional charge of pregnancy.