Tammy Hendler

The Difficulty of Turning the Corner from Juniors to the Pro Tour

by Jordana Klein

At the age of four, most children are more concerned with when their next visit to the toy store will be or, nowadays, when their parents will let them use the Ipad. Four years old seems quite young to make the decision about whether or not to continue with pre-school and kindergarden or take the route of becoming a professional tennis player. How can you know your child’s ability or coordination at four years old? Many parents around the world have to make the commitment about whether or not to pursue the professional tour dream for their child and even sacrifice some of the most valuable and cherished years of their child’s life.

Players such as Tammy Hendler know this route minute by minute, day in and day out, as they have lived through this journey. Unfortunately for Hendler, her journey ended, like so many other thousands of players, after her success in junior tournaments.

“I barely understood the rules and scoring of tennis when I stopped going to school in Georgia and began training full time, every day, with my dad and other coaches in the area,” Hendler said. “I worked for over a decade all the way to the top, but I fell short of the pro tour.”

Hender is not ashamed or embarrassed about her career, as she was ranked No. 2 in the world in juniors and made it to the qualifiers and even some main draw rounds of major tournaments. Hender’s career-high was her semifinal appearance in the Wimbledon juniors in 2008. She also made the quarterfinals of the 2008 US Open junior singles, represented Belgium in the Fed Cup, and won four ITF singles titles and three ITF doubles titles.

Unfortunately, these results were not enough to propel her into the top of the professional tour, and her career ended after several injuries, including those of the shoulder and elbow. After training in Bradenton, Florida with IMG Academy, Hendler reached a career high of No. 182 on tour in 2012 and earned a record of 122-93 in singles and 46-40 in doubles.

Hendler’s story is not unique, as many players attempt the professional tour after succeeding in the juniors and do not make it to the top. There can only be one Roger Federer, one Maria Sharapova, one Serena Williams. But there are dozens of Hendlers. The road to the top of the tour is incredibly tough, gruesome, time-consuming and difficult, but many players still travel the world every week to compete in as many tournaments as possible in hopes of slowly but surely increasing their ranking.

Even though one may think Hendler’s success in juniors should allow her to qualify automatically for the Grand Slams and other WTA events, she found out that there are hundreds of other players trying to make their way into the top 50 at the exact same time.

“I do not regret one second of my time in the junior and professional world of tennis,” Hendler said. “I met the most incredible people and visited the most amazing places, and I know I would have never had those opportunities had I not chosen this path when I was four years old.”