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Jennifer Brady is one of the breakout players of 2020, the talk of the WTA Tour. From a maiden major semi-final appearance in the US Open to reaching a career-high ranking of No.24 on October 26, 2020, the rising American star has come a long way from her days playing college tennis with UCLA.
Brady serves as the latest example in professional tennis that going to college doesn’t have to mean giving up on a professional tennis career. In fact, Jennifer Brady credits her success to UCLA Athletics and her coaches and has talked extensively about college and what it did for her as a person and her playing career.
As an adolescent, Brady trained alongside WTA pros like Madison Keys at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Florida. However, while Keys chose to go pro early, Brady instead opted the college route and went to play tennis for UCLA. After completing her sophomore year of college, she turned pro in 2014.
Brady made several inroads in the rankings along the way, but it wasn’t until her whirlwind run at this year’s US Open did she finally crack the top 50 in the women’s game.
Brady, now 25 years of age, entered the draw as a quintessential longshot by the odds. However, she powered her way into the quarterfinals to become the first woman who played collegiate tennis to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Gigi Fernandez in 1994.
In advancing to the semis, Brady then joined even more illustrious company by becoming the first former college player since 1987 to reach the women’s semi-finals at the US Open.
There’s no higher standard in the women’s game than Billie Jean King, who was the last college player to reach a final in 1974. Although Brady didn’t make it beyond the semis in 2020, losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in a three-set marathon 6-7(1), 6-3, 3-6, Brady may well get another crack at equalling her illustrious compatriot at the 2021 US Open. That’s assuming she continues on her upward trajectory next year.
There was a time when playing college tennis in the US was considered as a copping out of a career in professional tennis. Nowadays, however, attitudes are changing with more and more college players choosing to hone their skills at the college level before turning professional.
If you’re a tennis player aspiring to make it as a professional, taking the college route may be the right option for you. Put simply, not every young tennis athlete is going to be the next Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer. The odds of making a success of a professional tennis career are slim, and the average tennis player can struggle to make ends meet on the tour. However, opportunities of making a success of yourself with a college foundation are much improved.
So, go to college first, and then think about how realistic a tennis career is for you. Below are several compelling reasons why a college education and playing tennis at the college level can be doubly beneficial.
Why Tennis Players Should Get a College Education
College does more than educate a person, it helps establish a young person’s identity by providing an environment for personal growth, development and maturation, as well allowing for the discovery of new interests and abilities.
College education expands knowledge and provides entry into other fields, thereby, giving something to fall back on should a player not be able to fulfil the dream of a professional tennis career for a variety of reasons: injury, age or talent and skill not being up to snuff.
For those aspiring players that don’t make the cut for a professional tennis as teenagers, joining a college tennis program would be away to achieve competitive fulfilment.
College Tennis could also be a means to an end: it could help with further coaching, training, game development and confidence-building that would lead to a career in professional tennis after college – as evinced by several top 100 ATP and WTA players including, John Isner, Steve Johnson, Kevin Anderson, Danielle Collins and Jennifer Brady.
Healthy mind, healthy body: getting a college education and playing college tennis is way to keep both the mind and body fit. College tennis players are some of the fittest athletes and most successful alumni in the country.
When a tennis career ends, which it invariably does for every single player in the game, a college degree is an asset that could make it much easier to obtain a job/career afterwards.
The benefit of a college education is seen in remuneration: college graduates with bachelor’s degree earn more money than high school graduates on average