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ONcourt: Carol Zhao is one of Canada’s great tennis hopes. She is ranked #12 ITF in the World Junior Rankings. Three years ago she left to train at the National Center in Montreal and now she is faced with career decisions which are difficult for anyone. We talked to her about these issues.
Carol, talk to us about how you made the decision to go and train in Montreal, the fears you might have had and the success you have enjoyed while being there?
Carol Zhao: For me, going to Montreal was a natural progression in my tennis career. However, I approached the potential differences in my environment and life in general with eagerness as opposed to apprehension and fear because I had full confidence that the team at the national centre would help me achieve my goals. Tennis Canada has been extremely supportive of me in all areas of my tennis and academic career for the past three years and for that I’m deeply appreciative. They’ve provided me with many opportunities and I’ve been able to reach many of my goals.
ONcourt: Now you are at the crossroads, professional tennis now or University with professional tennis. How do you and your family approach this issue and what will you do?
CZ: Growing up, I’ve always had the same values and they remain the same; education for me is of equal importance as tennis. However, my ultimate dream is to pursue a professional career in tennis and to reach the upper echelons of the game – it’s what I’ve been working towards for the vast majority of my life, and that is something that will never change.
I’ve had the great fortune and opportunity to be accepted at Stanford University, to where I’m committed. I have seen that professional tennis and university are not conflicting; many Stanford players have done very well on the pro tour while receiving the best education in the world. I feel that this situation is ideal for me as I can pursue my dreams without making any sacrifices while giving myself opportunities for the future.
ONcourt: While being at Stanford what do you think will be important for you to improve to be ready for the pros full time when you graduate?
CZ: I’ve always believed that I’m a very hardworking and dedicated person, so I think continuing with those habits can help me become a better person and tennis player. Always having the initiative to do something extra to get better and to be mentally disciplined will be key for me. Everyone at Stanford has been very supportive as well.
I think that will be very dependent on where I’m at if and when that time comes. It’s hard to predict what is going to happen or the person I’m going to be in a few years and I just want to keep working hard and take it day by day.
ONcourt: Carol, thank you for your frankness and insight, you are a role model for many of our Canadian players. May you win many NCAA championships. See you on tour in four years, when you are ….21.
CZ: Thank you very much! It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me!