Every team has a leader that it takes cues from. In the case of the women’s tennis team, it becomes a little more overt thanks to weekly-updated rankings.. For the Maroons, this position is filled by second-year Kendra Higgins. She has been voted UAA MVP twice since she began playing for Chicago. We had the chance to talk to her about the season and what her goals are for the upcoming regional and national competitions:
Chicago Maroon: How’s it feel to be the best tennis player ever?
Kendra Higgins: At the school? Or this nation? I’m not the best. There are a lot of great players out there. It can change every day and little points can make or break a match. I mean, right now, I’m on a high, obviously, and I’m really happy right now. A national title would be awesome, but I’m going for a team title first.
CM: With just two tournaments left, regionals and then nationals, what are you looking to do?
KH: Obviously, as a team we want our first national championship. We’ve made a great name for ourselves so far. Individually, I would like the opportunity to win the singles title, as well as defend the doubles title. The Emory win was huge for us, and it will help us to get a bid from our region. We may have another face-off with Emory, we may have another face-off with Williams, but our goal is [not to settle old scores; it’s] to be number one.
CM: At the UAAs, you faced a new number-one player from Emory; was there anything you did differently that you would attribute your win to?
KH: In any match, once in a while, I change up the game when something’s not working. I go for my shots though; I step in early. Good placement is important. I was very nervous going into the match [against Zahra Dawson], because my teammates have all had difficult matches against her. Each point was critical; there were points where she nearly missed, or if I nearly missed, everything could have been different.
CM: How are you preparing for the end of the season?
KH: We’re playing a lot every day and doing a lot of conditioning to get up to that extra level of endurance and stamina and strength. We’re all really eager to see how that pays off. We’re doing the same old routine; we aren’t going to add anything because it has been working out for us!
CM: Is there anything in particular you want to work on before regionals?
KH: I’m really nervous. I know I have a game, but it’s also about having patience and not getting aggravated. Especially in some of the closer matches, [I know] I’m [going to have to] really try to maintain my focus and take it one point and one match at a time.
CM: Do you have any good-luck rituals before games?
KH: Before every singles match and team match, we blast Taylor Swift and other pop music. We just like to dance in order to pump ourselves up, or basically wake ourselves up for an early match. But, we are very serious when we get on the court. We’ll root for each other warming up for matches and try to stay loose. I also always like to use the same vibration dampener. If I don’t, I feel like I’m going to lose. I have like five rackets but I only use two of them. It’s all about superstition for me.
CM: Venus or Serena?
KH: I’ve actually met them both. I’ve seen them up close in person at one of the higher-tiered tournaments where they all play at. But, I have to go with Venus. She is poised. Serena is great also, but she comes across as a little stuck-up. Venus is just an amazing player.
CM: What is your favorite tennis movie?
KH: I actually really liked Wimbledon. If I could go to any grand slam it would be Wimbledon. And it’s a romantic comedy, and what girl doesn’t like a romantic comedy?
CM: Does your dominance in actual tennis matches translate to Wii tennis?
KH: I get that question all the time. I’m actually one of the most horrible Wii tennis players! I’m horrible with the Wii. My strengths are just real tennis. And ping pong. I can’t play any other games relating to tennis.