By McCarton Ackerman, Special for Tennis Grandstand
Reigning NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs will likely be turning pro at the end of this year’s college season.
The junior at Stanford University swept the NCAA women’s singles and doubles titles last year, becoming only the third player in college history to achieve that feat. Last summer, she enjoyed a breakout year on the pro tour by winning the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Denver, Colo. and winning rounds at WTA Tour events in Stanford and New Haven, Conn. She also won a round in qualifying this year at the Australian Open.
This week, she is competing at the Fresh Start Women’s Open, a $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., where she has moved into the final without the loss of a set. Gibbs is projected to move up to a career high ranking of No. 183 next week and says her recent pro results have made it likely that she will not return to Stanford for her senior year.
“Nothing is official yet, but the team knows there’s a 90 percent chance I won’t be returning next year,” said Gibbs. “I won’t be playing the French Open because of the NCAA championships, but am hoping to make Wimbledon my first tournament as a professional.”
Part of the decision comes from the strong summer that she had last season and the limited opportunities to play pro tournaments she has had since then. Since the US Open, Gibbs has been limited to just three events.
“It puts so much pressure on the summer when you’re chasing points for such a concise period,” said Gibbs. “You can’t bank on playing well for that six-week stretch every single year and keeping your ranking in that same spot.”
After dominating college tennis for the last two years and getting advice from fellow Cardinal Mallory Burdette, who turned pro last year after her stellar summer on tour, Gibbs believes she is ready to handle life on the WTA Tour.
“I’ve done what was needed in terms of being confident to leave school,” said Gibbs. “This tournament was instrumental in reasserting that, but I’m feeling confident with my game and think I’m playing at a top 100 level now.”