Former child tennis star Jade Hopper is now a partner at a law firm at the age of 30 after retiring from the sport
At just 12 years old, Jade Hopper made history both on and off the tennis court when Australia fell in love with the plucky blonde doll who seemed wise after her years.
A tennis prodigy along with sister Skye in the early 2000s, Jade rose to instant fame after appearing as the youngest person ever to be profiled on ABC’s Australian Story.
The daughter of famed coach Gavin Hopper – who at the time counted Pat Cash and Mark Phillipoussis in his powerful stable – Jade seemed destined for greatness as her junior ranks skyrocketed and clothing giant FILA signed her to a two-year deal – making her the youngest player ever.
Child prodigy: A young Jade Hopper, pictured with Australian tennis legend Pat Cash, was destined for greatness
Now 30, she has hung up her racket and is a partner in a prestigious law firm
Disgraced Father: Gavin Hopper Was Sentenced To Nearly Three Years In Prison
But it all came undone in 2004 after her father was found guilty of three counts of indecent assault and six charges of gross indecency after a former college student claimed they were dating when she was just 14.
Hopper, who was a PE teacher at Wesley College in Melbourne in the late 1980s, was 29 at the time of the crime.
The victim, who was 33 when the case was finally heard, told the court that in four years they had had sex about 300 times at home, at school and in hotels.
Hopper sought her out, initially flirtatious and “overly friendly” after volunteering to work with her during tennis lessons.
At the time of his conviction, aged 48, Hopper was eventually sentenced to 3 years in prison, but he only served the minimum of two years and three months.
For young Jade, it was a seismic blow to both her life and her tennis career and set in motion a tumultuous few years as she tried to deal with the fallout and also continue her tennis career without her coach and father.
Tenacious: Jade Hopper was known for being a gust of wind in doubles before retiring from tennis in 2010
Jade Hopper seen shortly before her retirement from tennis
“I was spat on by people on the street,” Jade now tells Daily Mail Australia exclusively from her newly adopted Melbourne base.
“So it’s fair to say it wasn’t all sunshine. And I definitely remember being a teenager… it was just awful because, you know, when you travel alone on a tennis tour, you, you know, you don’t have these people, your support network around you all the time.
“You’re a bit alone and exposed. So there are definitely those memories, and it wasn’t always pleasant.
“And because of that, I definitely avoided certain people or situations very, very early on.”
Despite losing her coach and father at a pivotal point in her career, Jade vowed to continue playing and, with the help of family friends, remained on the professional circuit for several more years.
But when she turned 20 and her tennis career wasn’t quite reaching the top ten in the world, Jade then made a bold decision – she dropped out of the tour to return to Australia, where she set her sights on a career in law. .
‘I was spat on by people in the street’: Jade said life was difficult after her father’s conviction
Now 31, Jade Hopper has started a new chapter of life as a partner in a Melbourne law firm
Using all the determination she had honed on the tennis court, Jade achieved the remarkable feat of completing both a law degree and a master’s degree, eventually landing a spot with major Melbourne firm Lorraine Jones and Associates.
Now, at the age of 30, she is a partner in the firm that specializes in family law and, appropriately, sports law.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for the former child tennis star who delivered the rare feat of proving there was life after a stint as a child tennis prodigy and the major public humiliation of her father’s high-profile case.
“I look back and think it could have been so different, of course, because I was so young and successful and then Dad went to jail and then (I) didn’t succeed and also just a teenager in general,” said Jade.
“It was all very tough and it could have easily gone in a different direction.
“But I really attribute every success I’ve had to my parents.
“They are great support and great guidance. To this day I still call them for every conference and every decision I make in my life, and there are great guiding lights.”
Staying close to her father, Jade describes herself as ‘extremely’ close to her mother Karen – who assisted Gavin during his trial and afterwards – and who now lives in Queensland.
Fresh start: Jade (right) with sister Skye and mother Karen are ‘closer than ever’ after high-profile case
Karen Hopper remains loyal to Gavin Hopper and devoted to daughter Jade today
All grown up: the one-time tennis prodigy is now an experienced lawyer and partner of a law firm
Jade stepped out of the professional circuit when she was just 20 . used to be
The shadow of her father’s business also begins to recede.
“If and when anyone ever recognizes myself or knows about my family, it’s almost always portrayed in a positive light,” she said.
“Usually it’s something along the lines of, ‘Oh you’re the little girl who played tennis on TV’.
‘Or, ‘oh isn’t your daddy Gavin Hopper? I remember him coaching’.’
“So I’m lucky now that it never really has a negative connotation. And I hope that has to do with my attitude.
“I don’t shy away from what happened in the past. I’m very much like, ‘Yeah, you know, Gavin Hopper is my dad and all’ that it is.
“And, you know, we’ve all moved on…but also accepted that this is part of our history and there’s no reason, you know, to deny it or shrink from all that’s happened. ‘