Tracy Lin

NCAA Champ Blog: Riza Zalameda

My time at UCLA was surely not just about having the  great college experience.  As a student-athlete life is pretty different from that of the average students. More than often the pressure to excel on the court, the constant pain we have to go through running sprints and lifting weights, and the struggle to maintain an above average GPA was unbearable… we student-athletes call it “the GRIND” and honestly I can say that it is not all that fun, but after you get the pay back, it is way worth it.

Considering how much my team and I have been through I would say the NCAA Team Championship made all the pain go away. I mean, we are part of history now. Part of the history of an institution that is not only one of the finest and most recognized universities in the world, but the WINNINGEST in NCAA Championships in the nation.  We locked in at #102. But, which I think is even GREATER is that we were the first team of five UCLA teams that won in the Championship round. I mean it took UCLA six times to finally win it! The tennis program was always the at the top in the country, but now we finally proved it to everyone and ourselves that we are truly No. 1.

After all the yelling, hugging, crying, and laughing, with my teammates that day, I went on to end my NCAA run in the singles quarterfinal round and the with my first and last NCAA Doubles Championship with my fellow senior Tracy Lin.  We both were overcome with disbelief… there was absolutely no way that we would have envisioned winning as much as we did and becoming No. 1 in the nation… when our coaches merely paired together in the middle of the season because my original partner, Yasmin Schnack got badly injured. Now, Tracy wasn’t even in the doubles line up early in the year, and I find it miraculous that we turned out to be a formidable team.

Now that we both finished our four years of eligibility I am going to turn pro and try my luck on the circuit, while Tracy is going to retire from tennis, study for her MCATS and become a doctor. However, our Championship earned us a wildcard into the US Open in New York this August, so I told her she won’t be going into retirement just yet!  This will be my third time going there… the last time was 2003 and 2004 when I won the Girls 18s Doubles Championships with Anne Yelsey and Audra Cohen, respectively.  It was such an AMAZING way to close up the chapter of my junior/ pre-college tennis career… and it is even SWEETER to go back there to open up a new chapter for my pro career!

I have already received many opportunities to play in the professional events.  This summer I got wildcards into the Stanford Bank of the West Classic and the LA Eastwest Bank Classic.  I played doubles at Stanford with Anne and we won our first round! We beat Patty Schnyder and her partner in the third set super tiebreaker! It was bizarre playing with no Ad scoring and a 10 point super-tiebreak for the third set. It was not too difficult to adjust to, but the match goes pretty quickly so you have to be really focused and execute on the first opportunity.

I have so much more to say about playing in front of the crowds, in a night match, and against the Euopeans! These European women are really tough cookies and I am happy to say that I am not as intimidated by them as I used to be! I also no longer feel out of place here… it has been a struggle transition from college mentality to professional.  I played in the singles qualies in LA, and it was definitely a good match. I was soo in there competing toe to toe with my opponent who was a solid veteran… yet there was slight hesitation, a minute glimpse of failure that kept me from executing.  I have to stop looking for the end result, and instead stay in the moment: trying to win every point and stay postively in tune with myself.  I realize that being in tune with yourself, listening to your body and smiling really helps in competition.  Now, that will be so crucial for me to master.  I am out there by myself now with no coach at the bench telling me “it’s okay, you got this,” or “fight!” on change overs.  There are no more teammates behind me, fighting next to me, and for me… like cutting off a life-line, the blood in your veins that goes  straight to the heart.  We could never ever have won our national championship without that life-line: that we wanted to win it so badly for EACH OTHER more so than for our-selves.

At the present I am in LA training for New York.  I am planning on flying out the 7th to JFK and get into the $50K Bronx Challenger.  Tracy and I may try to play in a WTA tournament in Forest Hills, New Haven the week before the Open.  After performing impressively at the LA Open, we think we have a good shot at winning at a major tournament!  Meanwhile, I’m hoping to attract some potential sponsors for the trip and also future ones the rest of the year. I miss getting free clothes an shoes from UCLA now!!!.  I really hope I can perform well with these opportunities open for me because this pro career is after all the chance of a lifetime!