"Normally tennis is an individual sport, but at the college level, everything is team based."UT: What has been your career highlight so far? College highlight? KC: Getting a chance to play in the US Open was pretty memorable for me! For college, a highlight so far is our indoor tournament where we got into the semis against Georgia in the NCAA indoor championships. UT: What type of adjustment has it been for you to play on the college level? KC: The team aspect. Normally tennis is an individual sport, but at the college level, everything is team based. And the scoring is different, too - in college, you don’t play the AD point out so that’s a big adjustment! UT: What tournaments are you most looking forward to playing this year? KC: I’m looking forward to the whole season in general! UT: It seems like you have had a lot of success in juniors. Why did you decide to compete at the college level? KC: I’m still between college and futures. In the future, I’d like to play in the pros, and in college you get a lot of match play. The coaches at Duke are amazing and I thought they would help me improve my game. Overall, I thought playing at the college level would be a great transition and preparation to the pros. UT: What tips would you give to a player going out for college tennis? Or deciding between college and futures? KC: For me, tennis and academics were both factors. A tip for deciding between college and futures is to just go with what you like! If you want to focus on school and play tennis, go college. If you want to focus on tennis and you have pros in mind, then I’d say go professional.
Kelly Chen (Courtesy of Duke University)UT: What’s a day in the life of a Duke tennis player like? KC: In the morning we have conditioning or lift. Then we have two hours of on-court practice, and I have a break in between before my classes in the afternoon. I study after my classes and then I go to sleep!
"UTR is a good way to indicate your level and the people you’re playing."UT: How do you use UTR? How do you see it affecting/improving the game? KC: UTR is a good way to indicate your level and the people you’re playing - it helps to see the level that you’re at in comparison with others. Kelly’s Lightning Round Killer Shot: Serve Singles vs doubles: Singles Forehand vs backhand: Forehand Favorite tennis player: Kim Clijsters Favorite tournament: US Open Clay vs Hard: Hard Racket: Tecnifibre Best nutrition advice: Eat a lot of veggies and fruits! Best training advice: Work your hardest on and off the court
Kelly Chen (Courtesy of Duke University)Coach Jamie Ashworth has been with the Duke Blue Devils for 23 years, becoming the head coach in 1997. Coach Ashworth is one of the winningest women’s tennis coaches in the nation and has built a renowned program that places equal value on tennis and academics. UT: When did you first notice Kelly? What did you like about her? Jamie Ashworth: Kelly had a lot of success at a young age. She won a Futures $10K tournament at the time when she was 14 or 15, so she was always at or around the tourneys where we were doing the recruiting. Because of her age, we couldn’t reach out to her, but we did get to spend some time watching her game develop. She has a huge serve and great hands, and we felt that if she could keep developing it in the right environment she would continue to get better and not peak at 14 or 15.
"From a pure game standpoint, we are trying to find people that truly love to play tennis. Even if their UTR is lower or their ranking is lower, a love and passion for the game can overcome numbers and these players can be great contributors. "UT: How do you see her contributing to the team? JA: Kelly has a great personality and brings a lot of fun to our program. She’s had a great run so far on the court, ending the fall ranked #1 in the country for doubles play, and she keeps improving and getting better in singles. She can always play in the top part of our lineup and is someone that can play big. She needs to hit the ball like she’s capable of - sometimes she’s on the shy side and that comes out in her match play a little bit. If we can get her to overcome that and be a more aggressive person, her play will become more aggressive. She has talent and experience to play high in our lineup and be a factor on the national scene for four years. UT: What do you look for in freshman players and college recruits? JA: Duke is a unique place because we really look at both academics and athletics and making sure we have players that can handle the quality of academics and athletics is our number one priority. From a pure game standpoint, we are trying to find people that truly love to play tennis. Even if their UTR is lower or their ranking is lower, a love and passion for the game can overcome numbers and these players can be great contributors. We like to have variety in terms of game style. We have some girls that serve and volley, and others that are aggressive baseliners. We also spend a lot of time watching junior doubles matches, as the emphasis on doubles is much greater now.
"In 23 years we’ve never had a scholarship player transfer."UT: What do you look for when you build a team? JA: We definitely want girls that fit in and get along with each other. When players come to visit, we like to have them spend as much time with the team and not just the coaches. We really value the feedback from the girls on the team, and we also want our players to tell the truth about our program and what Duke offers, whether that’s good or bad. We don’t want anyone coming here under false pretenses. In 23 years we’ve been successful at that - we have never had a scholarship player transfer. That success starts in recruiting and making sure players know what to expect when they come onto the team.
Jamie Ashworth (Courtesy of Duke University)UT: What do you look for in players beyond tennis abilities? JA: We look very closely at academics. We want people that are looking to find the best in both and know they are getting pushed in the classroom and on the tennis court. They go hand in hand. As a team, we do well academically and we always have. It’s important for us to keep that performance up. UT: What tips would you give to a player going out for college tennis? JA: Developing a full all-court game and some doubles play is extremely important, as well as knowing and being able to accept your role on a team, whatever that role may be. A lot of kids coming into college tennis have never been on a team, so its so important to be able to adapt to different situations, be flexible and understand that your coaches are working with 8 to 10 girls and not just one. The best teams we’ve had are because everyone knows and understands their role; they may not be happy with that role, but they do everything they can for the team. Time management is also a huge thing, it’s important to develop that skill for when you get into college and are balancing academics and athletics.
Freshmen To Watch: Michaela Bayerlova & Coach Lisa Hart. An Inside Scoop from a WSU NewcomerUT: What’s your coaching style like? How do you motivate your players? JA: If you asked our team, they’d say I am definitely a little more laid back. I won’t go out and yell and scream - that’s not my personality at all. I feel like over the last couple years as kids have changed, I’ve had to change my coaching style a bit so that it’s more individualistic in understanding that what’s right for Player A may not be right for Player B. I also work to develop relationships with players off the court, as that helps with on the court communication. I work best with self-motivated players that want to be on the court and want to get the most out of their college experience. Our players know that we expect a lot out of them and with the level of our program, there is a lot asked of them. We all have so much pride in the history of our program and that pride gets passed down from class to class and generation to generation. UT: How do your players balance academics and athletics? JA: Our players are looking to challenge themselves academically and athletically, and Duke does a great job of offering flexibility with class schedules. The professors and administrators here are great and support everything that we do on and off the court; they have a lot of Duke pride. They understand that sometimes you can learn just as much being on the road as sitting in the classroom, which is why they are so supportive of these student-athlete experiences. The type of girl that comes to Duke is someone that wants to be successful and that carries into the classroom. They talk about the team GPA - last year our team had an average 3.67 GPA - and take a lot of pride in that. UT: How do you balance players who want to play both at the collegiate level and in futures? JA: It’s a newer challenge that we are seeing in college, and it’s the kind of girl we want on our team. We are fortunate that our administration has supported us to take girls to professional tournaments during the school year and we encourage them to take these opportunities in the fall. We will sit with each player to determine their goals and what schedule works best for them. One of our current senior’s goals is to play professional tennis, so she played professional tournaments in the fall, but this year she’s focused on ending her college career and building her ranking. We provide and encourage our players to take advantage of these opportunities. If we have a girl that wins a Futures $25K tournament, it’s great for her and for our program. We do as good a job as anyone in the country to encourage our players to go out and play.
"UTR Tournaments are great especially on the development side because you get a good feel of where you are and where you strive to be."UT: How do you use UTR? What do you think of UTR? How do you see it improving the game? How would you like to see it evolve? JA: I definitely have used it more the last year and a half - it is a great tool and resource to get a feel for the level of a player, especially if it’s someone we haven’t seen play. We are starting to use it a lot more with foreign players - we don’t do a ton of foreign recruiting, but it’s one of the first things we look at. It’s more accurate than a ranking system and it allows coaches and players to play and own their level before jumping to the next level. UTR Tournaments are great especially on the development side because you get a good feel of where you are and where you strive to be. I would look at UTR even over ITF rankings - you can chase points and go all over the world to get points. UTR is more about your skill level at that current time period. Coach Ashworth’s Lightning Round Favorite tennis player: John McEnroe Most inspirational coach or athlete: 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team Favorite tournament: Wimbledon for sure. And for participation, it doesn’t get better than the final rounds of NCAA tourney with all the teams there. It’s a great atmosphere. Toughest opponent: Historically Stanford and Florida Favorite away courts: This might be a little biased, but the Texas A&M facility. We won the 2009 NCAAs there and love the facility and atmosphere. Anywhere where there is a good crowd is important to me. We love playing in front of people. Favorite school swag: I am a jacket sweatshirt kind of guy, so anything with the Duke brand on it. Favorite team bonding activity: One year we took a preseason trip to Hawaii and went cage diving with sharks. That was incredible and we have done it twice now. The girls overcame their fears and did something outside of the box that they wouldn’t normally get to do. Best nutrition advice: Hydration! Stay as hydrated as you can. Best training advice: Give 100% for time on court. There’s no reason to be out there 4-5 hours every day. If you’re out there for an hour you work your butt off and make the most of your time out there. We love to see how you play! Share your photos to #GetRated and you might be featured on our website. Stay updated on all things UTR by following us on Twitter and Instagram @MyUTR.