Sonia Tartakovsky was around the age of six when, on vacation with her family, she was introduced to the sport of tennis for the first time.
“When we came back home from that trip, I was like, ‘Mom, I want to play tennis,’” Tartakovsky recalls.
Tartakovsky began taking tennis lessons, but was still juggling other sports, included swimming, a sport where she qualified for the Junior Olympics. But there came a time when she needed to commit herself fully to one sport, and she chose tennis.
“I thought it was more fun. It’s not swimming laps back and forth, so I enjoyed it more,” Tartakovsky said.
As she got older, she began to take more lessons and started competing in tournaments. At one of those tournaments (in Canada), she saw a few kids wearing CourtSense shirts and liked the way they played. From then, she knew where she wanted to further her training.
Sonia has been with CourtSense at Bogota Racquet Club for just about four years now, and has become one of the program’s top players.
“It’s an amazing tennis environment,” Tartakovsky said. “They have the best coaches I have ever worked with, and I’ve been training at many places, not only in the U.S., but also in France and Spain. They really push the kids, identify their weaknesses and work on them. The coaches really care about and listen to the players they are working with.”
Tartakovsky has worked primarily with Asher Salam, a High Performance Coach at Bogota Racquet Club, for the last year and a half.
“My game has really grown to be more aggressive, and I’m definitely using my body a lot more efficiently,” Tartakovsky said of her improvement. “I’ve worked on serving and returning, and covering the court really well, but my backhand still needs work.”
Tartakovsky’s game was very raw when she first began training with Salam, not necessarily from a technical standpoint, but she needed to change her approach.
“We revamped her whole game. Not just the standard strokes per se, but mostly her mentality and thought process about practicing,” said Salam. “Practicing efficiently allows Sonia to practice better during feeding, which allows her to practice better during live ball situations, which then helps her play better in matches. She is now cognizant of the fact that tennis has layers and so many things integrate. She doesn’t focus too much on superficial tennis things, and this has allowed her to view, and therefore feel, the game differently than she had in previous years.”
In addition, Tartakovsky has taken advantage of the amenities that the CourtSense program offers, which includes a sport scientist, as well as PlaySight technology on its courts.
“My fitness coach, John Adamek, is a sports scientist, who helps me tremendously with my strength and conditioning,” Tartakovsky said. “He not only makes me stronger and faster, but also teaches me how to listen to my body. He and Asher [Salam] always communicate in order to make my training more efficient. Utilizing the PlaySight technology has been extremely helpful as well. All of the courts at Bogota Racquet Club where I train are smart courts, allowing you to see your statistics and video, which helps you isolate areas of the game you may need to work on.”
The combination of all those factors has molded Tartakovsky into the player she is today, and set the foundation for even more growth.
"Sonia has a professional player’s outlook when it comes to improving her tennis performance, realizing that her ability to perform is only as good as her ability to recover,” said Adamek. “Her work effort and knowledge to continuously evaluate, and train, the underlying physical: balance, timing, coordination, endurance, and cognitive: brain speed, decision-making, emotional control, components of performance has led to her becoming a complete package and is a major factor leading to her rise up the junior ranks."
Kunovac liked what she saw, and asked Tartakovsky to take an unofficial visit to Penn’s campus.
“She invited me to come on an unofficial visit to see the campus and meet the players on the team,” said Tartakovsky. “I loved the campus, the team, and really liked the coach, especially her vision and outlook. While visiting Penn, Sanela scheduled for me to attend a few classes with the girls on the team. I was very impressed with the classes offered for undergraduate students. It didn’t take me too long to realize that Penn was the perfect fit for me, both academically and athletically.”
Tartakovsky is currently completing her high school education online at Stanford Online High School.
“I went to Chapin, one of the top private schools in the United States, but their schedule was very strict so I looked into home-schooling,” Tartakovsky said. “Education was very important to us, so my parents didn’t even want to consider home-schooling, but I did research and we discovered Stanford Online High School. The school has very rigorous classes. Unlike most online schools, you have to attend classes, like in regular school, just virtually.”
Being able to attend her classes online is extremely important with her tournament schedule, and attending Stanford Online allows her to compete in some of the top National tournaments. One of those tournaments came at the end of last year, when she finished as a finalist at the Super Nationals in Weymouth, Mass., a success she looks to build on throughout this year.
Her passion for the game and the determination to improve are some of the attributes that makes her stand out, and that mindset comes from within.
“Her parents are there, but in a supportive role, which is a huge advantage for her,” said Salam. “That’s the thing that makes her special … her drive is completely intrinsic.”
That sort of internal drive is what has allowed Tartakovsky to become a top-ranked national player, and will play a major role in her continued tennis development as she prepares for her college career.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org