Dreaming Big, Fearing Little

in Tennis

Alison Riske has the last name to fit her mindset, but more importantly, she has the mindset to fit the grueling grind that is life on the WTA Tour. After passing on a scholarship to Vanderbilt (where her big sister Sarah once attended) in 2009, Pennsylvania native Alison Riske has made a steady climb up the rankings to justify her sacrifice.

Her decision wasnt an easy one, but now that its in Riskes past, she can focus on the business of establishing herself in the highly competitive world of professional tennis. It's kind of a touchy subject, Riske said about going pro in an interview with the WTA this summer. I mean, they (Vanderbilt) had been planning on me being there, and so I feel really bad about that to this day. But I'm living my dream.

Sports fans have become accustomed to praising those athletes who altruistically forego money for an education, but in Riskes case, her story is every bit as inspiring perhaps even more so. Knowing full well that tennis is a young persons sport, Riske opted out of Vanderbilt two weeks before she was due to arrive on campus, and since has embarked on a journey across the globe that has not only broadened her view of the world, it has also strengthened her bond with her sister Sarah, who is a now her coach and confidant.

Riskes story is about more than just tennis, family, or seeing the world. It is a symbol of courage, conviction, and the undying thirst for the game. It is about believing in your dreams, and having the gusto to back them up, even during adverse times.

2010 was by no means an easy campaign for the 19-year-old. Riske bounced around the challenger circuit and only entered one WTA main draw (via wildcard) in the first half of the year. Then she broke through in the big way on the grass in Birmingham (The Aegon Classic), qualifying and rolling all the way to the semifinal round where she lost to Maria Sharapova in three sets.

This is the best tennis Ive seen her play at any time, her sister Sarah said of the effort, which was good enough to earn Riske a wildcard into Wimbledon, where she lost in three sets to Yanina Wickmayer in the first round.

Later in the year, Riske went on an impressive tear that saw her in the finals of four consecutive challengers, the last three of which she won. With a career-high ranking of No. 115, Riske will enter 2011 as the 9th-ranked American woman on Tour.

Riske is happy to have made her way close to the top-100, but she isnt done dreaming yet. Her and her sister/ coach set monthly and annual goals, and she is intent to work on her mental game this year as well as her strokes. I've been working on the mental side more than the actual playing side, Riske told the WTA. Of course I spend hours on the court, but you know, all these girls have the ability to beat the best but I feel it's those who believe in themselves that can take it to top players. I've tried to work on just knowing that I belong here and in terms of my game, being aggressive, and knowing that no matter what's happening in a match, things can turn around.

Shes proved that she can win at the WTA level, but next year, shell have to prove that she can do it consistently. But win or lose, Riske is too smart not to enjoy the ride.

I fall in love with every town I go to, said Riske. Each town I decide I want to live there one day.
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Chris Oddo has 1 articles online

Chris Oddo is a contributing writer for On The Baseline http://www.onthebaseline.com , where you can find professional women's tennis news, results, interviews, analysis, and commentary from around the globe.

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Dreaming Big, Fearing Little

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This article was published on 2011/01/01