Steadily gripping her racquet with both hands, Sarah Tran crouches low as she waits for the opponent to serve. In a flash, Tran leaves her spot with eyes solely on the lime green tennis ball. She moves her racquet behind her, preparing for a backhand stroke. The ball comes into contact with Tran's racquet, and a soft pop echoes across the tennis court.
Senior co-captain Sarah Tran began playing tennis five years ago at Hope Chinese School, which runs every Saturday at Walter Johnson. "I began by taking group classes," Tran explains. As her attraction and love of the sport deepened, she began practicing on her own. "I got more interested and began playing on my own or with friends," Tran said. She later decided to try out for Blair's tennis team and has been on the team since her freshman year. Despite her adeptness at tennis, Tran never went through formal training. She did take sporadic private tennis lessons with Blair's tennis coach David Ngbea throughout her years on the Blair's girls' tennis team.
Tran's improvement over the course of her years on the tennis team is noteworthy. "I did notice a gradual improvement in her skills throughout the years. Sarah began to hit much more aggressively and became very passionate about playing tennis," senior co-captain Elissa Shiau said. Shiau has been Tran's teammate on Blair's team every year save junior year when Shiau suffered an injury. Tran started out playing third doubles freshman year and gradually moved up to third singles. "She has definitely progressed," coach Ngbea said.
Though Tran is a well-rounded tennis player, she has two qualities that make her stand out amongst her teammates: agility and mental strength. Tennis is a game centered on running, according to coach Ngbea. Tran reacts quickly to the ball and swiftly moves around the courts. "She's very fast. She hustles out there more than the others," Ngbea said. "If the ball is hit short, you are required to run." Not only does Tran move around the court, she maintains focus throughout the match. This consistency works towards her advantage, because she doesn't let the score affect her performance. "She is consistent and mentally tough," Ngbea said." I think that is why she has been winning."
In addition, Tran has developed skill in backhands and serves. "I think that Sarah has very good ground strokes. She has good control of the ball and hits very aggressively with angles and fast balls," Shiau said. In many matches, she keeps the ball in play with assertive strokes in long, intense rallies. Tran admits that she is impatient when it comes to the long rallies, but has learned to adjust and remain consistent.
Later on this year, Tran plans to apply for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) scholarships. Tran is not ready to give up tennis in college, and she plans to continue playing. "Maybe not for the college's team, but as a club and extracurricular sport," Tran said.
Tran's skill and success is partly due to her passion for tennis. There are many things that Tran enjoys about the sport, but a few things go on the top of her list. "The team, watching pro-tennis on TV, and the adrenaline of hitting between points....oh and the fresh smell of new tennis balls," Tran said.