Out Of A Suitcase

Harry Bourchier
On the tennis court, and off it, are two very different things when chasing the professional tennis dream. We sit down with Tasmanian star Harry Bourchier to delve into the life of living out of a suitcase.


While I’d heard of Harry before through social media, it took fellow Tassie Athlete Scott Bowden’s suggestion to connect before we managed to tee something up.

Harry has been a supporter of TA since launch and was eager to be a part of the journey - but to be honest, I still get nervous interviewing athletes I haven’t previously met.

If you're new to the Tassie Athlete, each article shares not only a person's story, but aims to distill a key theme or focus; something that's unique or special to them or their approach to sport.

With this in mind, I was intrigued as to what Harry’s theme would be.

I'll admit, I'm regularly drawn to the hype that often surrounds tennis, which is often contrasted by the down-to-earth personalities like the Ash Barty’s of the circuit (and yes, go Tiges).

After setting up the camera to hit record, I was instantly intrigued by Harry's raw insight into the sport, sharing things that don't often appear in the headlines or Instagram posts.

Harry’s theme is ‘Out Of A Suitcase’, where he opens up the on challenges that come with pursuing a professional tennis career.

While television prime-time and travelling the world are what many associate with professional tennis, behind the scenes is a flurry of planning, a reliance on prize money to live, and plenty of time spent in transit.  

As if often the case for emerging athletes like Harry, there's nobody doing this for him - no assistant booking flights or organising competition entries, it is all him; yet the expectations to perform remain.

Catching up at Hobart's Domain Tennis Centre, I enter to see Harry hastily navigate the baseline, returning each ball as not one, but two opponents hit at him from the other side of the net.

Personally, I always consider it a privilege to use my love for videography and story telling to share every TA athlete's story; especially stories such as Harry's, whose veins run deep in the sport of tennis in Tasmania...

Tennis In The Blood

“I was literally brought up on the tennis court,” Harry begins, "I'm the youngest of two siblings and both my brother and sister grew up playing tennis."

"My mum was also a bit of a tennis coach, so even when I didn’t have a racquet in hand I was hanging around the courts when I was younger."

A topic that often gets discussed on the Tassie Athlete socials is whether Tasmanian athletes have to move away from the state in order to succeed. Harry made the choice at a young age to move to the mainland and further his tennis development.

“My love for the sport quickly grew and I made the decision to move to Melbourne when I was fourteen, which was quite young."

"I moved over there and went to school, and was training at the Tennis Australia Academy that they had running, which was the equivalent to the AIS, and I’ve been living over there ever since.”

I asked Harry if he had any reservations looking back at the move and how young he was.

“Look, I’m definitely not academic that’s for sure - so I made the move purely for tennis, and looking back it has been a great choice.”

"I had to learn independence pretty quickly, so it really accelerated my growth and I'm thankful that I did it."

"I think this choice ultimately lead to my first breakthrough at the U14 Nationals in Melbourne, which was the first time I had gotten past the second round and ended up winning [the tournament], which for me, that was my biggest accomplishment."

"This was the first time that I knew that I wanted to be a tennis player; but not just any tennis player, a professional tennis player."

“Things grew from there, like going to Junior Davis Cup with Thanasi Kokkinakis and Blake Mott where we came second in the world, so that was a real eye-opener for me too."

"Even though I was still pretty young, I was going over to Europe for a few months every year and spending the summer there while traveling around Europe and playing tournaments."

“Honestly, looking back, it's been a journey - a long journey. It’s taken me longer than I would have liked, but I'm still on the path and I'm still eager to reach the top."

A typical tennis day

Before delving into the depths of the suitcase life and what that phrase actually means to Harry, I was eager to learn what a typical tennis day looks like.

As mentioned in other articles, each athlete theme unique to the Tassie Athlete has, surprisingly, come about organically. Something else unexpected has been how different a 'typical day' looks for every athlete.

"A typical training day for me; I wake up around 7:30am and get to the courts for 8:30am where I’m on court from 9am until around 11am."

"Then I’ll have a bit of a break before I’m back in the gym for an hour, whether that be strength or movement or general conditioning."

"I'll try and get back on court for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, which is more tennis specific stuff with the coach, and then recovery - that can be ice bath or even just a massage or physiotherapy work."

"I do that probably five, six times a week - but it can change a lot. If I’m in a training block or if I'm away overseas playing tournaments, it can vary a fair bit."

When the racquet and medicine balls eventually get put down, I feel like Harry and his team aren't the only ones who have gotten a work out as I've been hustling to follow him around with camera in hand for over an hour.

Out of a suitcase

After sitting down with Harry to discuss his tennis journey so far, I can already sense this notion of constantly being on the go, always chasing something, always on the move - which leads to our chat around his life on the professional tennis circuit.

“I think the best way to describe this lifestyle, this ambition of chasing a professional tennis dream, is living out of a suitcase…”

Harry is quick to respond when I ask him what this term actually means.

“I think it's just, at the peak of competition, every week, every moment is a new city, a new place,” he says.  

"It’s not some lavish lifestyle, I don't often get to get out and explore each and every city or do all the tourist things - it's just going between the hotel and the courts."

"For me, the focus is on the competition - but that’s what I love, I love tennis and to be honest that’s all I can think about when I'm away.”

Despite this unwavering love for the sport, I am shocked to learn that there isn't someone behind the scenes doing all the leg work for him.

For Harry, it seems while one eye is on a current tournament, the other is seemingly always looking ahead at the logistics of getting to the next event.

"It is tough," he admits, "while I'm trying to put everything aside to focus on the current competition, there’s always one eye on the up and coming events."

“Nobody does this for me - while trying to play and recover it’s also a case of having to organise entries, sort out travel, book accommodation, figure out how and when you’re going to get there.”

“Often, there’s no time to stop and unpack and settle in - it's just go, go, go and it really is crazy sometimes."

As is the case with a lot of sports (if not all), it's no surprise that money makes the world go round.

With this in mind, I'm interested in how funding works for Harry, who isn't unwavering about his aims to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

"When I was younger, I got some funding," he replies, "but as of now I'm not getting anything.”

"It's honestly just hoping that, when I'm away, I'm doing well each week to fund this journey that is so very prize money reliant, and COVID has made this tough."

"I haven’t been able to get away and travel and play tournaments like I usually would, but still I’m hopeful that the next year or two has a lot in store for me if things recover."

“I don’t think it’s often advertised that a career in tennis isn’t this fully funded holiday, at my level you're relying on prize money so it’s literally dependant on how I go each week - that's what determines how much money goes into my account."

“This means it becomes a choice of trying to select tournaments around the world, finding that balance between choosing the best option for your tennis but that doesn’t mean the cheapest option."

“It’s also playing to your strengths too - like for me, I enjoy some of these tougher countries like China and across Asia, so it's more what the conditions are like for the competition, that’s where I'll play and obviously the level of tournament is a consideration as well.”

Much like in our chat with Hobart archer Sarah Haywood, I'm perplexed at the amount of factors that go on behind the scenes to make this sport work.

I think this whole notion of living out of a suitcase can be summarised when I ask Harry to explain in one sentence the toughest element in seeking a professional tennis career.

“I just wish, sometimes, I could stay in the same spot and play tournaments week in, week out."

He continues, "But obviously as you go further up the ranks, you need to give more - it’s an entertainment business after all and you're putting on a show.”

“The travelling aspect each and every week, that's the toughest part I think - I mean, at the top level you do get taken care of and it’s pretty nice but at the same time you’ve got to get there to reap those benefits, so, its a tough road to follow.”

The COVID conundrum

Back on the Tassie Athlete socials, during the height of COVID here in Tasmania we ran a poll to see how the pandemic was interrupting the competition and training of our followers. A large number of athletes reported that things weren't the same and many competitions had changed or been cancelled.

I imagine this was the same for Harry, particularly heightened by a reliance on prize money to both make a living but also contribute to his sustained continuity in the sport.

"During COVID, I had the option to go overseas and there were still professional tournaments going on.  At that time, this meant I would have to have quarantined when I returned home and that was just something I wasn't keen on - spending 14 days locked in a hotel room.”

“There's obviously the cost that comes with that, plus you had to book a business class plane ticket home to guarantee a seat and that isn't cheap. I know a lot of the other tennis players spent good ten thousand dollars getting back into the country.”

“Even with the tournaments, it wasn’t a guarantee getting into them as there was a lot getting cancelled which made the tournaments that did go ahead even stronger - it was a real mess of a situation to navigate, so I stayed in Melbourne."

“We had the a five kilometre radius circle around our house which we weren't allowed to leave and Thankfully, I had a permit to go into the Melbourne park to train so I was going in there with Thanasi Kokkinakis, and there were only two other guys as well."

"I spent a lot of time with them during that initial COVID lockdown and grew a pretty good relationship. Um, Yeah. And did a lot of German, got strong, got my body stronger this year, which was one thing that I got a bit injured in the past which was keeping me off the court."

"So I really spent this time to improve my body, improve my game as well. But with all the isolation I was definitely looking forward to getting back out on the tour consistently."

A love for home

"I love coming back to Tassie," Harry proudly proclaims, "it always feels nothing's really changed, which is kind of a good thing, but I enjoy seeing my family and seeing friends."

As someone with so much experience both travelling and competing overseas, I'm interested in asking Harry what it is about being from Tasmania that makes him proud.

"I think it’s the individuality of it, what makes me the proudest,” he says through a smile.

“Being overseas, even like telling everyone about the Tasmanian tiger and people in America know the Tassie Devil really well, they can relate if I tell them I'm from Tasmania and they say, 'oh yeah, that's where the Tasmanian devil is from.'

“I'm proud to tell everyone I'm from Tassie and I love that I’m from here.”

“Even the facilities, everything is so close and accessible - I’m super fortunate that my whole family grew up playing tennis and we're a massive tennis family, so I try and give back as much as I can when I’m home in Tassie.”

Top tips for aspiring Tassie Athletes

“I think first and foremost, enjoy it, but at the same time don't push yourself.”

"If you don't want to do it, you'll only get so far by pushing yourself and then you'll get burnt out and quit earlier than you should.”

“The longevity of being in a sport you love is so much more enjoyable - you’ve got to remember it is a journey not a sprint."

“I think for those aspiring to go to the next level, whether that’s competition or individually - if you're not there now just keep chipping away and the progress will take you wherever it wants to."

“For a lot of sports there's so many options these days with US colleges, for example.”

“Lots of successful athletes are not only finishing high school but then end up going to US College and getting a university degree at the same time - they come out a much more mature and a stronger person."

"So if you do keep chipping away and work hard, then maybe that opportunity can arise for them. And then you can go professional from there. And I think that's a great option these days".

In summary:

  1. Enjoy the process and don't push yourself - do the things you love and have fun;
  2. Remember it's a journey, not a sprint - longevity is important;
  3. There are many different pathways out there at the moment, so achieving your goals may not mean following a traditional route;

A focus on the future

As we take a quick pause before rounding off our filming, I reflect back on Harry's earlier statement about how long the journey has been and how there's still more in the tank.

With this in mind, I ask him about what the future might hold and if any specific goals or aspirations are written down somewhere.

“My long-term goal would be to make the top hundred, definitely, and then play the main draw in a grand slam," Harry proclaims.

“I think I can do it - to get to break into that top 200 you've got to have that consistency of showing up every day and competing, putting everything out on the court."

"It is a physical sport, but also quite a mental sport as well, so that balance and working on your strengths but also those weaknesses is important."

“But I think surrounding yourself with the right people, the right coaches and getting the right team around you is a massive part of it."

As the Hobart sun beams down upon us, I know Harry has limited time left in Tassie so was curious to know what he had planned for the afternoon.

"I've got a few more days here at home, so I'm probably going to enjoy the beach this afternoon whether it's warm or cold."

"After that we'll see and just take it day by day - but I'll also try to get to the court for a couple of hours each day and do some gym work too."

"My dad actually has an electric mountain bike which helps going up the hills, so we'll probably get to that a bit later also."

Plus, some kind words about the Tassie Athlete...

"I came across the page and I thought it was such a great way of raising awareness for athletes in the state.”

“Sport can be so tough at times and and there's not much funding - where as the Tassie Athlete raises that awareness and attention."

“I loved the way so far that it’s enabled some smaller sports to have a profile - and letting those athletes tell their story, because often you just see them competing in their own sport and not knowing their story and their background.”

Having hit stop on our interview recoding, I can see a slight sense of relief that the filming is over.

Despite his preference for the big stage tennis court over the more personal media sessions, Harry's parting words are a fitting way to sum up the latest Tassie Athlete feature.

"I just want to say thanks to the Tassie Athlete for doing my story, and hopefully there's some younger tennis players out there that come across this and, because of it, keep chipping away at their goals and ambitions."

"There's definitely more opportunities than you think."

Thanks for taking the time to chat with TA Harry - you can follow along with his journey via Instagram at @harrybourchier.


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