WCC Freshman of the Year and rising sophomore Ashley Lahey won her first USTA
Pro Circuit event earlier this summer in Sumter, S.C. She talks to us about her
experience and her goals for the future:
Q: You just won your first USTA Pro Circuit event. Was this your first professional event?
A: I played a few professional events last summer, but I haven't played in very many. The Sumter tennis tournament in the ITF Women's Circuit was the first tournament of the year for me so I didn't really have any expectations going in.
Q: Talk us through your experience and the atmosphere at the professional level compared to college.
A: Like any sport, the beginning level professional circuit is not nearly as glorious as the big leagues. The atmosphere itself was nothing special or exciting as there were not too many fans. I did meet an incredible family with some cute kids who became my fan club for the week and it was super fun having them cheer me on and come running to hug me after my matches. Many of the players in the tournament were college players. Mixed in were some top juniors and rising professionals. The competition was incredible. I couldn't believe how hard I had to fight for every match.
Q: How does your age impact your play? Do you feel like being a young sophomore helps you on the court or can be difficult to overcome at times?
A: For me, the biggest positive of being young is realizing that I have a lot of time to really develop my game. Therefore I can focus on the process of improving and don't have to stress about results as much as older players. Having said that, I still do put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. One tough part of being young is not having as much experience as some of the older players.
Q: What did you learn from the experience?
A: To me the tournament served as a step in the right direction. It told me that my efforts are paying off and if I continue to improve, I have a shot at making it one day. I also learned how important acting professionally, such as eating the right meals, sleeping the right amount and practicing at the right times, is to succeeding. It's going to be a really tough journey, but one I'm excited to take on.
Q: What were your emotions after winning?
A: I was really excited. As I said, it's a step in the right direction and it's fun to see hard work pay off.
Q: What are your next tournaments for the summer?
A: I actually earned a few wildcards into some 60k tournaments, which are a much higher level. I am excited to be able to compete against some very successful players.
Q: What are you learning in the summer tournaments that you will bring onto the court come the fall and spring?
A: I am learning how to win matches with strategy versus physical strength or fitness. I am becoming more well-rounded and also learning how to hold my nerves and play my best game under a lot of pressure.
Q: When did you start playing and who introduced you to tennis?
A: I started playing with my mom when I was about four years old.
Q: What goals do you want to accomplish in the next three years?
A: In the next three years I definitely hope to crack the ranking of top 100 players, though I know that will be very difficult, especially considering that I will be balancing my college education with my athletics!