Daria Kasatkina

June 25, 2020

“I finished 2018 ranked in the Top 10. The beginning of 2019 was very tough because everyone had high expectations. Meanwhile, I had split from my coach and most of my team. I did not have a practice partner so I could not prepare well for matches. I was alone, traveling to tournaments with only my brother. I was very lost. I wanted to take a break. But I had to play mandatory tournaments because of my ranking. If I chose not to play these events, I had to pay huge fines. So I continued playing but was breaking down. Tennis is one of the most difficult sports because you’re alone. Our season is longer than most other sports and we are not financially secure. If you’re not playing tournaments, you don’t earn money. If you do not play well at the main events, you have to earn money somewhere else so you play even more tournaments. At some point, you break down. Most of the professional players reach a point where they cannot do it anymore. I wondered if I wanted to quit. But then I thought, ‘If I want to quit now, what am I going to do?’ (more…)

How Do We Convince Ourselves That Pressure Is A Privilege?

June 18, 2020

As we enter the fifth month of this new life as we know it, we can all take a piece of advice from Brad Stulberg’s New York Times article about the mental discipline of endurance athletes. Like the pandemic, long-distance races take time to complete. It is important to adjust expectations for the challenge ahead and maintain a steady pace throughout the event. A process-oriented mindset is helpful to establish a purposeful existence in the midst of uncertainty. Without established routines, the notion of being productive can become daunting. Scheduling time for short bursts of work and rest are often helpful to create routines and set manageable goals for each day. Completing small tasks can yield a sense of satisfaction and help offset the feeling of inertia that might accompany this time. While some of us remain in our homes, others are beginning to venture back out into the world of sport. Many local tennis courts are reopening and players are dusting off their racquets before cautiously returning to the courts, this time with a bottle of hand sanitizer. The official return of professional tennis was marked by the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) Pro Match Series held in Florida. On (more…)

Brandon Nakashima

“I struggle with being shy. I have always been introverted. As a junior player, I let my racquet do the talking. I didn’t talk to many people because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I am most comfortable speaking when I’m confident expressing what I feel. Between interviews and the college recruiting process, I started to speak up. I recently made big decisions for my future. I decided to go to college then I decided to turn professional. These choices were very tough moments for me. There were a lot of people voicing their opinions and I wanted to keep an open mind. In the end, I made choices that were best for my future. I am grateful for the support I received during this time.For me, college was the first step before turning professional. I had to decide which school and how long I would stay there. College helped my game as it allowed me to mature physically and mentally and prepare for life on tour. It was a hard decision to leave the University of Virginia. I built many strong relationships in college, and it was difficult leaving my teammates and coaches after only one semester. (more…)

Mary Pierce

June 11, 2020

“When I was 13 years old, my dad was my full-time coach and my mom was my full-time mom. There was no income and sometimes we lived out of our car. My dad showed me a bag of money and was like, ‘This is all we have.” Then he told me, ‘You better start winning because we need money.” That was a lot of pressure to put on a young child. I originally wanted to be a pediatrician. But when I first picked up a racquet, I looked like I had been playing for years so I felt that God had given me this gift to play tennis. I started at 10 and turned professional at 14. My dad took me out of school and was my coach until I was 18. During this time, I played tennis because I had no choice. I had to win because if I didn’t, my dad would get abusive and I was afraid of what would happen. Fear was the driving emotion. I’m grateful that I had my mom who was my pillar of support. I also had my brother who was my practice partner and later became my coach in 2000 and (more…)

Evan King

June 4, 2020

“Early 2015 was a pretty dark time for me. I had decided to quit professional tennis, get out of that bubble and enter the real world. With that lifestyle change came more time to live, reflect and consume everything outside of the professional tennis world. Around that time, there were a few high profile race-based killings in the United States. The murder that received the most publicity at the time was Trayvon Martin. There were a lot of others that didn’t grab mainstream media’s attention but these stories kept repeating themselves with no real change. As these murders kept occurring, and I was no longer solely consumed with that fuzzy yellow ball, I came to the realization that any one of those killings could have been me. I could have been that kid walking back from 7/11 wearing a hoodie and getting Skittles or more recently, I could have been Ahmaud Arbery going for a run in a white neighborhood before getting shot. Those realizations took me to a dark place. I was 22 and I was starting to think about what I was leaving behind in the world if my life ended unexpectedly. I thought I wanted a kid, (more…)