Lofty goals fuel fire for tennis team

In head coach Patrick Sullivan's first season,the Cougars pulled in the sixth-ranked recruiting class in the nation. Courtesy of UH Athletics

In head coach Patrick Sullivan’s first season,the Cougars pulled in the sixth-ranked recruiting class in the nation. Courtesy of UH Athletics

The UH tennis team is composed of two types of players: those who want to compete professionally and those who want to work for a Fortune 500 company.

In either case, members of the team see tennis as a launch pad to their future.

For junior Elena Kordolaimi, sophomore Maria Andrea Cardenas and freshman Despoina Vogasari, going professional starts with a Women’s Tennis Association ranking.

Kordolaimi has dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player since she was nine years old. She decided to compete in professional tournaments in Greece and Egypt to build up her rankings. As of July 29, Kordolaimi is No. 827 in singles, according to the WTA.

“This summer has been good for me. For the first time in my life, I got my professional tennis ranking, which I have been trying to get for a while now. This is something that I am extremely happy about,” Kordolaimi said.

“I would not be able to do it without the help I am getting from (head) coach (Patrick) Sullivan, our strength and conditioning coach and all the people that have helped me and are helping me in Houston Athletics, but also the great teammates I have that support me throughout the season.”

In December 2012, Vogasari’s WTA ranking was No. 659; by Aug. 5, she had moved up to  No. 519.

“(I) played seven WTA $10,000 tournaments, reached three finals (two singles and one doubles) and actually won one singles and one doubles, totaling three titles in my career so far. (In July) I participated for my fifth consecutive year in the European Junior Championships with the Greek National Team in Klosters, Switzerland,” Vogasari said.

In May she participated for the first time in the Fed Cup in Montenegro with her national team.

“Competing with pros is an excellent way to maintain or improve your ranking. It is a measuring stick to let you know where you stand in case you want to pursue a professional career after college,” Vogasari said.

“I believe that the college level of tennis is pretty high and with the right organization, motivation and support, (it) may help a player arrive at the next level.”

Cardenas will begin her first semester at UH in the fall after transferring from Auburn. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, she has traveled throughout Europe and South America, competing in junior tournaments. This summer she traveled to France, Belgium, Germany and Holland in the European International Tennis Federation pro circuit.

“The level in the pro circuit is really high, so competing with girls at that level helps me raise my level of play. I would like to continue playing some pro tournaments after I graduate,” Cardenas said.

In the past, Sullivan has coached players to realize that their opponent is just as scared and nervous when going into a match. Now he says he’s got a confident bunch of players who face no insecurity or intimidation.

“What I love about these girls traveling around the world and getting these experiences (is that) the more you do, the better you get at handling stress and pressure. At the end of the day, it’s just tennis,” Sullivan said.

“It’s a game.”

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