In the summer of 2019, some of the best junior tennis players from across the country gathered at the Winward Lake Club in Alpharetta, Ga. for the USTA Girls 12s National Championships.
The tournament is one of the more prestigious ones on the junior circuit, and can provide a real test for the nation’s most promising players. And the player that passed that test with flying colors was New York City native Claire An, who played a dominant tournament and claimed the National Championship.
“Winning the Hard Court National Championships was a huge milestone for me,” said An. “I had never won a National Championship that big, or gone that far in such a big singles tournament like that. It was a huge confidence booster for me.”
An won seven straight matches, all in straight sets, culminating in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over top-seed Bella Payne of South Carolina in the finals.
“I had to be consistent; consistency is key,” An told TennisRecruiting.Net. “I knew she was a tough player coming in, but I felt like I was prepared, and had been all week.”
Prior to competing at the Hard Court National Championships, An won the singles gold draw and thd doubles championship at the National Clay Court Championships in Boca Raton, Fla., which she says was a huge key to her preparation:
“Leading up to that tournament I played the clay courts in Florida, and training for that and competing there really helped build my stamina, and I was feeling really comfortable heading into the hard court championships.”
Despite living in New York City, An trains once a week at the USTA Player Development but mostly at the CourtSense Training Center at Bogota Racquet Club. Most days after school, An travels across the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, and she credits a lot of her success and improvement to her time there.
“I started there in the spring of 2018, and I think it’s a great place for top players to train,” said An. “They treat the players like family, the coaches care about each individual player and they do their best to improve us as players.”
Commuting back and forth across the Hudson River, often times during rush hour, can be very difficult, but An’s mother, Hannah, says it is worth it because of the impact it has had on her daughter.
“Trying to cross the George Washington after school can be brutal, and we wouldn’t do it if my kids didn’t enjoy training there,” she said. “Claire likes it so much and we find the community welcoming and enjoyable. Their fitness program, Magnus Fitness, is top notch, and they have a great mental tennis program. They really work on all the aspects of being a player.”
Saul Salazar, the Director of High Performance for CourtSense at Bogota Racquet Club, spoke glowingly about An’s passion for tennis.
“To talk about Claire is so easy because I have nothing but positive words to say about her. She is a great student, a hard-worker and a very good listener. What makes her special is that she isn’t afraid of changes. You can change one of her grips, and she is going to do it, and the adjustment is going to be ready in three days. When she competes, she’s a warrior. She always fights with great determination, and never quits.”
Improving on her mental strength has been a huge key to An’s success over the last couple of years, and has allowed her physical talent to shine through in some of the big tournaments she has played and succeeded at. Her goals in 2020 are to keep improving on her game, particularly in adding more variety to her game, and continue playing at her highest level.
“I love to compete in tournaments, matches, and even practice in general,” she said about her love of tennis. “I like the feeling of adrenaline you get when you win, and even when you lose, you learn. There are a lot of stressful moments, and a lot of good moments, and as you grow it is important to use both of those as part of your development and success.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com