Hey, it's Nicole, remember me?
Hmm, maybe you know me by Gibbsy then.
Oh, still nothing?
Well then, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I'm currently ranked around No.100 in the world in the WTA rankings. I'm a rare breed of professional tennis player who took time away from the tour to get an (ultimately half-baked) college education at Stanford University. After winning four NCAA titles - twice in singles, once in doubles, and once with the team - I left a year before graduating, in 2013, to play full-time. I reached the third round of the US Open in 2014 and have reached the second round of the Australian Open in 2015 and 2016. I have won four professional singles titles, and two professional doubles titles, all in the "minor leagues" of tennis.
When ur small so u make up for it with rly scary faces. ? pic.twitter.com/eVuO39XXKr
In summary, I'm good. But I'm not "Serena good" or even "Sloane good." Not yet anyway.
On the off chance that my name did ring a bell for you, one of the following probably applies to you:
1. You are an insatiable tennis fan and have literally heard of every player to have ever played at a professional level;
2. You are one of the 10-20,000 followers I have carefully cultivated on social media - you likely added me after a narcissistic-looking selfie or a photo of me in some badass New Balance gear. You hoped following me would lead to an abundance of NB discount codes; it did not;
3. You have physically met me, maybe through tennis, maybe during a yoga class - in which I was noticeably the least flexible;
4. You came across my moderately emo - yet evidently palatable - Facebook post about my year at the end of 2015;
5. You thought you knew who I was but then it turned out you were thinking of the other Nicole girl: Nicole Vaidisova. Isn't she making another comeback..?
The point that I'm trying to make here is this: being Top 100 is only sometimes what it's cracked up to be. Every tennis player with dreams of playing on tour wants to be in the Top 100, wants to play in the main draw of grand slams. As someone who's played in the previous six major tournaments, I'm here to tell you that there are truly fantastic moments - moments where you feel like all the work has already paid off and you've made it; the glitz, the glamour, everything exactly as you imagined it.
I've had the chance to hold a koala bear at Melbourne Park, eat strawberries and cream in the players' lounge at Wimbledon, and drink champagne at a private party atop of the Eiffel Tour. I don't have to worry about hailing taxis in New York because a private Mercedes is waiting for me each morning outside of my apartment. These are moments and facets of life on tour that have surpassed my expectations - things I never even knew to hope for or want.
And then there is the other side of "barely Top 100" that very few actually see. There are the qualifying round losses where I actually lose money on the flights, hotel rooms, and coaching fees. I'm left wondering, "How long can I stay afloat like this?" There are the weeks where I'm defending points that will make or break my entry into the next Slam, and thus the next big paycheck. There are the tournaments where I win a 7-6 in the third thriller in front of a crowd of 11 people and remind myself that I'm not in it for the attention; I'm in it for the love of the sport.
One W down ? pic.twitter.com/T0pR14ihqy
There's, "Maybe I just can't handle the pressure?" and "Will anyone remember me after I retire??" In order to emerge from near anonymity and step into the spotlight, some hard work, dedication from my support team, and self-belief will be required.
So, you might not know who I am yet, but I'm determined for more of you to know me in the future. I want to know the feeling of lifting the trophy on the biggest stages in tennis. I want to know what it feels like for thousands to learn my name.
But most of all, I want to know that I can take myself to the very top of a game that I have committed nearly every waking moment to since the age of three.
In tennis, we love to say "on any given week," and who knows, maybe this week in Monterrey, Mexico will be mine. But in the meantime, knowing that I love my life as someone who often draws a crowd the size of an 8am college lecture, I figure I don't have too much to lose. ;)
To keep up with Gibbsy, you can follow her on Twitter @Gibbsyyyy and Instagram. Nicole Gibbs will feature as a regular columnist for WTA Insider. Check back regularly as she files a variety of dispatches from the road to give fans a glimpse of her life on tour.