With a growing number of Fil-foreign athletes making their way to the top of their respective sports, Filipino-Australian tennis player Lizette Cabrera adds to the mix.
Though she has long received support from her friends and family in the Philippines, Cabrera rose to prominence when she faced Romanian great Simona Halep in the 2021 Australian Open.
Get to know more about Cabrera and her love for tennis and the Philippines.
She faced Simona Halep in the 2021 Australian Open
Cabrera’s biggest break came when she was drawn to face current world No. 3 Halep in the opening round of the 2021 Australian Open.
The Fil-Aussie was finally able to set foot at Rod Laver Arena and had her match broadcasted as she sized up against her Romanian foe.
Although Halep overpowered Cabrera, 6-2, 6-1, the home bet was still grateful for the opportunity.
“It was an amazing experience, especially being at my home Slam in Australia,” said Cabrera, who entered the main draw via a wildcard.
“And I actually had a lot of Filipinos messaging me and sending me really nice messages, which was really comforting going into such a big match to know that I had so much support.”
She is in the WTA top 150
Cabrera is currently ranked world No. 141 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and nailed her career-high of world No. 119 last February 3, 2020 after the year-opening Grand Slam.
In her professional career, Cabrera has won 5 International Tennis Federation (ITF) titles, and made her first Grand Slam debut in the 2017 Australian Open via a wildcard she won at the Hobart International.
She also saw action in the 2018 and 2020 editions, and was also in the main draw of the 2018 and 2020 US Open.
Cabrera made it past the opening round of the 2021 Australian Open for the first time when she paired up with Maddison Inglis and defeated the tandem of Renata Voracova of Czech Republic and China’s Wang Yafan.
But in her first 2nd round appearance, the Australian duo lost to Japanese tournament No. 7 seed pair of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara.
Cabrera will be having a busy 2021 as she targets a top 100 ranking, which will secure her berths to the Grand Slam main draws.
Her eye-opening experience playing against Halep gave her more confidence heading into her future matches.
“I think having that experience knowing when I go back onto a bigger stage – whether that’d be another Grand Slam, or if there’s another match where there’s a lot of people – I definitely feel more at ease,” said Cabrera.
“I think since I’ve experienced it now, I know what’s going to happen, how I’m gonna feel and how I can handle that moving forward.”
She trains with Ashleigh Barty
The 23-year-old is now residing in Brisbane for her tennis career and was able to train with world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who was considered the home Slam favorite before getting ousted by Karolina Muchova in the 2021 Aussie Open quarters.
“It’s not everyday that you get to train with the No. 1 in the world,” said Cabrera.
“And she’s just an amazing human. She’s very down to earth and I love training with her because obviously she’s so good to practice with and I get to kind of match up my tennis against the best and see what I can do better and what I can learn from her.”
She was able to further prime herself with practices against Australia’s top tennis players like Inglis and Kim Birrell, and Priscilla Hon.
Her dad inspired her to play tennis
Cabrera’s parents Ronnie and Dolly are avid tennis fans and had always made sports a part of their family culture.
“Mum loved tennis and kind of started hitting with dad and then dad just loved it and would play with everyone in our neighborhood,” recalled the 23-year-old star.
“And then as soon as I was born, it was like, it was tennis, nothing but tennis and if anyone ever spoke to him, he just wanted to have conversation.”
Cabrera started playing tennis at the age of 4, and was exposed to a variety of sports such as golf and inter-school sports, but decided to focus on tennis at the age of 9.
Unfortunately, Ronnie passed away in September 2020 due to strep throat while Cabrera was playing in the US Open bubble.
Though Cabrera admitted that it was difficult for her losing her dad, it motivated her to train harder and savor the moment when she played at the Rod Laver Arena for the first time in the 2021 Australian Open.
“Moments like when I got to play on Rod Laver Arena in the Australian Open, I just really thought about him, because that was his dream to ultimately see me playing there,” said Cabrera.
“And he just loves that time of the year. And for him not to be there was really heartbreaking for me.”
She loves to cook and dance
Off-the-court, Cabrera shows her Pinoy side as she loves to cook Filipino food with her family.
“My favorite foods are like sinigang and adobo. I just figured out how to cook pancit and I’m super proud of it,” said Cabrera, whose family cooks Filipino food every night.
Just like any other fun-loving Filipino, Cabrera loves dancing and grew up watching Filipino variety shows.
“I really want to go to one of those TV shows where you’re like dancing with the team that I used to watch growing up. So hopefully if I get enough exposure, I could probably go on one of them as well. So that’d be exciting,” said Cabrera.
The pro tennis player also recently picked up surfing and likes reading books during her free time.