5 min read
In Washington, D.C., Makenna Jones took the court alongside 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens. Jones, a UTR Pro Tennis Tour (PTT) champion in Charleston last year, held her own as they won their opening round of the WTA 250.
Picking Up Her First WTA Victory
“That was such a cool experience for me,” Jones (UTR Rating 11.05) told Universal Tennis. “Sloane was amazing. It was so much fun. We had the best time, and she helped me loosen up a little bit, too. She got on me for being too stressed. Not everyone can say that they got to play with Sloane Stephens.”
Jones' father, Kelly, has coached Stephens, and Jones and Stephens had trained together before Stephens applied for a wild card this summer. In her senior season at the University of North Carolina, Jones won the 2021 NCAA doubles championship (with Elizabeth Scotty), earning a wild card into the US Open. But her experience with Stephens in D.C. felt different.
“It felt like I was starting my career and really getting a big breakthrough chance,” Jones said. “It was super cool. That was my first WTA win, so it's very exciting.”
Coming Into Her Own After College
Jones has had a taste of success at the ITF and PTT levels, winning three W25 ITFs this year (one in singles). But her PTT title last October at the LTP in Charleston marked her first professional title. At the time, Jones was pursuing a Master’s Degree, teaching lessons, and working as a graduate student for the UNC basketball program department. The timing of the PTT was perfect.
“I needed a break; college tennis is a lot,” Jones said. “I got a new love for tennis when I had to take a step back. Once I got my chance to play again, I had nothing to lose. I just felt excited to be out there.”
“To be able to play that much tennis guaranteed was what I needed because I played that tournament and that tournament alone in about eight months,” Jones said. “
Committing to a Pro Career
She’s now fully invested in building her WTA ranking, playing ITF events in the U.S. and, most recently, in Australia. Her WTA singles ranking is No. 726 while her doubles is No. 464 (based on UTR Rating she's No. 519 in the singles PTT rankings).
When she’s not on tour, Jones splits her time between Tampa, Fla. and North Carolina, and local players are in luck as she’s been available on Universal Tennis Paid Hits, which pairs elite players like Jones with anyone willing to pay to hit.
“Paid Hits was one of the better things that I've done because it actually gave me so much business and introduced me to a lot of really cool people,” Jones said. “It was great because they would never have known I was willing to hit with people if that's what they wanted.”
Jones put in the time to develop her game in college, earning All-American honors four times, winning the ITA Team Indoor Championship three times, and becoming one of four players in program history to earn 100 singles and doubles victories. After taking time to pursue off-court interests like her Master's and basketball internship, a pro tennis career is now firmly in her sights.
“By the end of my college career, I just knew that I owed it to myself to give it a go because I know that when I put my mind to something, I've seen some great things happen,” Jones said. “If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But it's been fun so far, and I've learned a lot, so I'm happy I chose to do it.”
Learn More About the PTT
The PTT is open to players with a UTR Ranking of 200-2000, and wild cards can be awarded to those players with a UTR Ranking of 1-199 or above 2000. Every PTT event creates matchplay opportunities for up-and-coming, collegiate, and pro players thanks to a unique round-robin format. At every event, a group round-robin stage is followed by a World Cup-style playoff, guaranteeing multiple matches and counting all results towards the UTR Rating, the most accurate rating system in tennis. Every PTT event offers 4-5 matches and a minimum of $20,000 in prize money with an earnings guarantee for every participant.
For more information about UTR PTT and to see all of the results, click here.