At the beginning of this year, Brooklyn native Carrie-Anne Hoo walked through the doors of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and found a sign in the front lobby which recognized her recent accomplishment.
She was fresh off a successful tournament at the Level 1 National Winter Championships in Tucson, Ariz., where she partnered with Nancy Lee to win the Gold Ball and earned the Silver Ball in singles.
Based on results such as this, Hoo had achieved the top-ranking in the country, rising to the number one spot in the Girls 12U division, and her home club honored that achievement with a display for everyone to see when they entered the home of the U.S. Open.
“I was shocked and felt unreal that I’ve achieved the number one ranking in the country,” said Hoo. “It almost seems impossible. If you asked me a few years ago, I always thought there was someone better than me. I’ve just kept working hard and I’ve made it!”
The ranking was more than just a number, it was validation of the immense work and training that Hoo has put in over the years, with the majority of her progression taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hoo began playing tennis at a young age, getting her start at a local club near her family’s Park Slope, Brooklyn home. It was around the time that QuickStart programs were growing in popularity, and she recalls playing for the first time.
“I started playing with the red balls, the sponge ones, and I remember they gave me this really small racquet to hit them with,” she said. “I would also play with my dad sometimes, and that really helped improve my consistency.”
Hoo shortly made the move to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the place where she continues to train to this day.
“I’ve been working at the National Tennis Center pretty much my entire life. They know my game pretty well and I’m comfortable there,” said Hoo. “Since they know my game they are able to give me really specific coaching advice and focus on areas that will help my game.”
Through that work and her own personal dedication to improving at tennis, Hoo’s game has catapulted her up the rankings.
A lot of that work took place during the global pandemic, when club closures and lockdowns forced many people to isolate. Hoo decided to use this time to take her tennis to the next level, finding outdoor courts near where she lived to play as much as she can.
At the beginning of 2020, Hoo was ranked #4,417 in the country. Two years later, the Brooklyn middle schooler was the highest ranked player in her age group, a remarkable jump and an indication of her dedication and talent.
Hoo would hit with her father as well as her older brother, and her persistent work ethic would soon pay off. A major motivating factor for her growing up was watching her brother play in and win tournaments.
“When I was watching my brother win a lot, I told myself that I didn’t want him to win all the trophies,” she said jokingly. “It definitely motivated me though because I wanted to do as well or even better than he did, so he wasn’t always the one bragging.”
“My dad has always helped us improve since the beginning,” Hoo added. “Whenever we had private lessons, he would come and listen to our coach. If there was something we didn’t understand or pick up on, he would help explain it to us. He is able to take that coaching and apply it when he hits with us; we continue to learn from him a lot.”
Hoo’s father also gave her some sage advice on how to approach her matches which played a vital role in both her development but also her outlook on her performances.
“He always told me it’s not about the winning and losing, but about how you play,” she said. “If I play really well but lose, he’s happy and doesn’t care. When I go into a match, I try to play my best instead of only focusing on the end result. I want to win, of course, but the goal is to play better than I did previously. I’m going to play my game and try to win, and if I do that the results should be there. That’s my motivation.”
That process has resulted in Hoo becoming one of the best players in the country in her age group, and has laid the foundation for her to continue growing as a player.
A major point of focus in her training now is establishing her serve, and improving the other aspects of her game which are already strong.
“In my training at the NTC we’re working on my serve, and finding different ways to improve it,” she said. “I like to play a lot of doubles, so I’m comfortable coming to the net, which is different than a lot of players my age. I like volleying and I think I am most effective when at the net. My baseline strokes are effective and I enjoy playing from back there, but another thing I want to improve on is finishing off points earlier to avoid having to get involved in really long rallies.”
Hoo is a wonderful example to young tennis players. With a passion for the sport and a willingness to practice and improve, you can accomplish great things on the court.
It’s important not to necessarily invest all of your mental and emotional energy into the ranking number besides your name, because as Hoo has demonstrated, that can change.
“I’ve just kept working hard and I’ve made it!” she said. “My advice to other younger players is never give up, dream big, nothing is impossible. If there is a will, there is a way.”
Her coaches are excited to see what lies ahead for her.
“Carrie Anne Hoo has an innate ‘killer instinct" and is someone who does not get intimidated very easily,” said Jay Pinho, the Head Tennis Professional at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. “She has been part of our programs for many years, but over the past couple of years we've seen her energy level and desire to compete and develop herself flourish, making her one of the most improved players in our program for the past few years, if not the most improved. Her strong foundation and willingness to train and compete will definitely take her to great heights as she continues to mature.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org