I can still remember the first time I watched Venus Williams walk onto a tennis court.

I was only a little girl at the time, but I remember looking at Venus through our family TV, imagining what it would be like to one day follow in her footsteps and compete at a Grand Slam tournament.

I felt like that little girl again on Sunday… and Monday… and Tuesday, when I had the opportunity to be Venus’ training partner in the lead-in to the Australian Open.

It all came about because I know her regular hitting partner and he mentioned that they were looking for a left-handed player to practice with, so just like anyone would… I jumped at it!

I honestly thought I’d be lucky if I had 30 minutes on court with Venus – I had no idea it’d turn into three days.

Isabelle Wallace exclusive insight

But we hit hundreds of balls and played a number of games which was amazing. To me, every game we played, was a testament that she wanted me there. I felt as though she was benefiting from my play.

If she didn’t like the way I was hitting, she could easily have said to her coach, “No more, I don’t want to hit with her anymore.”

It was such an amazing experience just to see what she’s like on court, because she’s obviously one of the world’s greatest players of all time.

To see what she does on court and have a chance to learn from her, was an amazing opportunity.

Because like I said, she was always on the TV when I was growing up and just doing amazing things alongside Serena.

The interaction was incredible – I was lost for words half the time. We actually didn’t talk that much, but what I really took away was just how focused she was before and during practice.

After practice was finished, was when we were able to share a couple of laughs. But it really struck me how committed Venus was to her craft and how while on court, the only thing she was fixated on was winning.

What I did gained from our hitting practice was real confidence in my own game.

We played for a ton of points and I really felt like many of those rallies were close. It’s good for me to see that I am at that skill level – and that my best tennis is capable of competing against the best in the world.

That gentle reminder was much-needed – these past twelve months haven’t been easy for me. I’ve had to battle a troublesome back since the Australian Opener qualifiers last year, which has really forced me to miss a lot of tennis when I was just starting to build myself into some really good form.

I did win the Roland-Garros play-offs, qualifying to play the main draw at the French Open, because I really didn’t win that many matches last year.

Isabelle Wallace exclusive insight

Straight after French, I was sidelines for three months as I nursed a back injury. What was more frustrating was I was false diagnosed, because at the time it was believed I suffered damage to the ligaments. But it was only recently that we discovered it was a stress fracture in my back, which I’ve chosen to play through right now.

It was tough having to take so much time off. During that time, with the points I had to defend from the year before, I lost all of my points.

Which just destroyed me, because had we known the full severity of the injury, I would have taken six months out and taken a protected ranking to get my back better. But, I obviously can’t do that anymore.

Isabelle Wallace exclusive insight 2

So it’s been a physically and mentally challenging 12 months, but I am really now just focusing on the year ahead. I feel like 2019 could be a real defining year for my tennis, which is why I have decided to spend more time in Australia, as I seek to build-up my form and fitness.

But for now, I have a real opportunity to impress in the doubles at the Australian Open alongside Astra Sharma, who I absolutely love competing alongside. Astra works incredibly hard and I believe her best tennis is in front of her.

It will be a special moment for both of us when we walk out onto home court and I’m hoping it’ll be the first of many matches we’ll play in the next fortnight.