Call it the Vania King generation.
With the Williams sisters seemingly nearing the end of their careers and the focus of American tennis turning to young rising stars such as Christina McHale and Sloane Stephens, King remains one of the standout players who fits neither group – the other being 26-year-old Bethanie Mattek-Sands, a former American No. 1.
The oft-overlooked King has reached success mostly as a doubles player – winning the 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open women’s doubles titles with partner Yaroslava Shevdova – but has enjoyed a consistently strong singles career as well.
The 23-year-old southern California native turned pro at the age of 17 in July 2006. She would go on to reach a career high of No. 50 in the world a few months later. Since then, King has never finished a season ranked lower than No. 129. She is now the third ranked American behind Serena Williams and McHale at world No. 54.
And she is just getting started.
“I think my game has evolved a lot,” King told Tennis Grandstand. “Most importantly, my motivation and my confidence have been good. I’ve been happy with playing. Obviously, I feel like my tennis has improved. I feel like I have a lot to improve still. It’s always a good thing to know that you can be better – I’ll have something to look forward to.”
When speaking of her current status in the game, King turned philosophical.
“I’m trying not to worry too much about the ranking; I’m trying to focus on each match and my game itself,” she said. “I feel like if you’re playing well, the results will come. It’s not a reflection of the number that you have, it’s more of a reflection of the work you’ve done before.
Although her only WTA title came in 2006 at the now defunct PTT Bangkok Open, King has experienced a recent surge in success at the big stages. A run into the third rounds at last year’s French Open and U.S. Open was followed by a third round finish at the 2012 Australian Open – her best results at the majors.
At the BNP Paribas Open last week, King came down with the stomach virus that affected many other players and was forced to withdraw after posting two strong victories over higher ranked opponents. Still not feeling 100 percent, she defeated Laura Pous-Tio to open her Sony Ericsson Open campaign in Miami. She takes on 15th seed Ana Ivanovic, who defeated her earlier this year in Melbourne, in the second round.
Even with the success on court, King has never been one to let tennis consume her life. The youngest of four children of Taiwanese immigrants – her brother Phillip was also a professional tennis player – King has found passions in other outlets. A very talented singer, she has performed at baseball stadiums and night sessions at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Additionally, King has been taking online classes for the past half year.
“I think I’d be something like a guidance counselor for kids, that’s something that I want to pursue,” she said, when asked what career she would have chosen aside from tennis. “I haven’t declared my major yet, but I’m studying online right now. I’d like to work in something like elementary education or psychology.”
King may not be the headline American player at tournaments or have experienced a notable break out match that some of the younger players have, but she has been a stalwart of the U.S. contingent ever since turning pro.
If it feels like Vania King has been around the pro tennis circuits for a long time, it is because she has. And she is not going anywhere, anytime soon.
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images North America)