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Burdette Graduates To Big Leagues

Mallory Burdette bided her time before starting her professional career and is reaping the rewards of her extra education on and off the court.

Published May 28, 2013 12:00

Burdette Graduates To Big Leagues
Mallory Burdette

PARIS, France - For decades the US collegiate system has played the role of finishing school for young tennis players from all corners of the globe, preparing them physically and psychologically for the rigors of life on the professional circuit.

From Billie Jean King and Stan Smith to Lisa Raymond and the Bryan brothers, the list of players to have emerged from the production line is as long as it is distinguished.

World No.80 Mallory Burdette, who attended Stanford on a scholarship, is the latest player to have delayed joining the tour in favor of furthering her academic and sporting education, and her mature performances on the court - and in the interview room - certainly appear to vindicate the decision.

In her post-match press conference after defeating Donna Vekic on her French Open debut, Burdette referenced the importance of her three years as a psychology major in allowing her to make such smooth transition to the professional ranks.

"When you are in college, it is up to you to manage your schooling and dealing with team responsibilities as well," Burdette said. "It's a place where you can grow and develop and go through some tough times.

"You have a team there to support you and coaches with you at all times; whereas on the tour you're a little bit more on your own. I think college prepared me very well for having to manage my time on the pro tour.

"In fact, it's easier for me in some ways now because I'm only having to focus on one thing at a time. I am just focusing on my tennis."

However, Burdette is open-minded enough to realize that her chosen path is not for everybody.

"I think one of the biggest things is to understand that everybody is different," Burdette added. "So your path may be very different from someone else's.

"It depends on the individual. You really just have to look at what will work for you. When it comes to assessing your game, I would say, get a lot of opinions from other coaches, hear what they have to say.

"What are you comfortable with right now? Do you feel like you're in a position mentally and emotionally where you can grow and develop while you're on your own on the tour? If so, and you have a good support system and financially everything is in line, then go for it."

Her first round victim in Paris, Vekic, is one player that felt capable of making the plunge - despite being six years Burdette's junior she has already played 40 more career matches. Another is fellow American Shelby Rogers.

A leading junior, Rogers had the opportunity to go the college route upon graduating from high school in 2009, but instead decided to try her luck on tour.

Unlike Burdette, Rogers took some time to find her feet in the senior ranks, bobbing around in the lower depths of the Top 400 for her first few years. However, despite her travails, she does not regret forgoing the college experience.

"I went through the college application process. Did the official visits and went to see the teams, all that stuff, and I just couldn't see myself playing on the team and doing the whole college thing," Rogers said. "I had to give myself a chance playing on the tour.

"It's been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and I felt like I had to seize the opportunity and give myself the best chance I could.

"I can always go back to school, but I can't always play on the tour."

And now, at the age of 20, Rogers appears to be coming into her own. After winning the USTA's French Open wildcard challenge with a string of impressive performances during the US clay court season, Rogers won her first round match against Irena Pavlovic, 63 64, on Monday.

"It was really tough for a while. I wasn't a very happy person," Rogers said of her early years on tour. "But I kept grinding it out every day, and I knew something had to turn around eventually.

"And here I am now, pretty much the highest point of my career. I'm really glad I stuck with it, got matches under my belt one at a time, one tournament at a time, and worked my way back up."

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