The 'Doubles Dossier' takes you inside the game to get to know the stars of the WTA's Doubles Circuit. Alexa Guarachi took her first baby steps on a tennis court in Florida before taking her talents to the University of Alabama. The Chilean-American reflects on the challenges and rewards of making it on the doubles circuit.
WTA Insider: How did you first start to play tennis?
Guarachi: My dad played at the University of Alabama where I played as well. He was the first foreign athlete at the University of Alabama. He's from Chile and I play for Chile but I have dual citizenship. My mom played high school tennis and then they met when she was in college. They both teach and that's why I was kind of surrounded by tennis.
So both of my parents teach tennis and they have a club. I actually learned how to walk on a tennis court. I was two years old. That's basically how it started. I just was always there all the time. When I was about five, I really started to play. They would actually start to give me lessons and everything. And my first tournament, I was seven. This was in Destin, Florida.
I played a bunch of sports growing up. I didn't really want to focus on tennis, especially, having your parents teach you is tough. They're trying to push you and you're kind of pushing back. I played basketball, soccer, a lot of sports growing up. I was about 12 and my parents were like you need to start choosing what sport you want to go to.
Ultimately, I chose tennis because I felt like I was very independent and I didn't have to count on anyone else. So I chose tennis and from then on, I loved the independence. I love competing so much. I hated to practice. I'd be like, take me to the next tournament!
And then from then on, I went to the University of Alabama and then graduated and am now playing pro.
WTA Insider: Since you grew up around tennis, do you remember when it went from something you did as a hobby to something you truly enjoyed on your own?
Guarachi: So I used it a lot at first to get things that I wanted. Like Mom, I want this dress and she was like well you have to hit one hundred balls over the net first. I was super competitive in that way.
But I really started to enjoy it a lot when I was probably around 11 or 12. My parents were taking me to South Florida a lot for all the bigger tournaments and I just remember seeing all these other players and girls and I just wanted to beat everyone. I wanted to play and I just really was so into it.
How do I get to the next level? How do I start playing the national tournaments, you know? I was lucky that my parents were able to do that and take me there. But yes, I would say around 12 is when I really started to love it.
WTA Insider: At what point did you start to think you could play professionally?
Guarachi: I don't know. I always kind of dreamed about it, but I never thought it would actually come true, you know?
I remember I was 14 and I won the Super National 14s clay courts and I was like, wow, this is amazing. I would see these other girls play pro tournaments. I would play some 15Ks every now and then, I'd get a wildcard or something at 16 or 17. I just felt like, wow, I'm not ready for this. I knew it and I felt it.
I needed to go to school. I was homeschooled. I needed to grow up a little bit because life on the tour is very tough. You have to grow up pretty fast. A lot of people aren't ready for it. So I was able to mature a lot through college and learn, OK I want to be a pro. I have to be a pro on and off the court.
I actually didn't even think about going pro until my senior year of college. I really had my best year. I made semifinals in singles and doubles at NCAAs and I was like, wow, I really think I can do this. I started playing and I just knew I could do it and I loved it.
Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk said it took them a few events to find their rhythm after the layoff but it all came together @AdelaideTennis.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) February 27, 2021
“We were like three months w/o matches. It's really nice to have back-to-back-to-back-to-back wins. Really helps our confidence." pic.twitter.com/NlafumdaNn
WTA Insider: How would you describe your experience at Alabama?
Guarachi: I loved it. I felt like I got to get a lot of my partying out. Especially being homeschooled through high school. I always felt like I was missing out a lot. I'm a very social person, so I loved that aspect.
I had to grow up a lot learning how to juggle things in my life. I had to be able to go to class. I had to have my grades be good. I had to go to practice. I had to go to study hall. I had to do a lot of these things and figure out how am I going to manage my time? I was thrown into it. I wasn't really sure what to do. I was winging it. As time went on, I started to get the hang of it and figure out things.
It teaches you a lot about injuries because as tennis players, we spend so much time on the court and your shoulders and everything starts to wear out eventually. Then I got introduced to, OK, I had an injury and we had our athletic trainer but you need to start doing rehab exercises and if you don't do these rehab exercises, you're not going to be able to practice real things. So I had to learn from that perspective as well. It taught me to bring that to the pro tour when I started playing. In juniors, we would just kind of go on the court. We wouldn't really run and stretch all those things, you know? And so I was able to get a good base of, OK, this is how I need to be warming up. This is what I need to be eating. This is how I need to be sleeping.
It really taught me a lot on the court, too. I think what's so cool about college tennis is being coached on the court. I think that is one of the biggest areas that I did mature as well because the way I play I'm very aggressive, very aggressive style of tennis. My Plan. A, if it wasn't on, it was not going to be good. I was going to make a lot of errors.
I was lucky enough to have some really good coaches that made me think. It's not like they would tell me, OK, hit to her forehand. They'd be like, OK, what do you think, what's going on? They'd ask me questions. I would start to realize, wow, I need to be thinking about this stuff more on the court, trying to figure things out. Then it became a game of chess a little bit more. Especially the doubles aspect.
I liked doubles in juniors, but I wouldn't say I was very great. I was OK. I was good, I guess. In college, you really focus on it because a big part of your points is the doubles point. I loved it. I loved the intensity. I loved just how much fun it was with the crowds. The doubles point, to me, was the most fun. It's so intense. Everyone's cheering The points are going so fast. The doubles really help my singles a lot, too. So that's what I learned at Alabama.
WTA Insider: What do you look for in a doubles partner?
Guarachi: The biggest thing is personality. When I'm going through and looking at, OK, who should I play with, my biggest thing is am I going to get along with that person? Are they nice? Do we have the same vision? Do we have the same energy on the court?
I think in doubles, I play with a lot of energy and good positive energy. Doubles can change so fast, you're never out of it. So it's always so important, I think, just to be positive, because I've played matches where I'm literally down a set and 5-1, match point, and we've come back. Staying positive, believing in each other, even if you hadn't really played together, as long as you guys have good energy, you can find it to click.
I'm a very upbeat, positive person, so I like to play with someone that's the same as me because it's tough when you make a mistake or something. No one is perfect. You don't want someone to be mad at you or give you this vibe where you're like, crap, if I miss another one she's going to be really upset with me.
I feel like I have worked really hard where I'm able to play either side now. So for me, that's kind of why it's a big, big thing for me, of how's your attitude? How is their effort? Do they practice hard? That kind of stuff to me is really important. The tennis stuff, here and there I like to look at it, but at this level, everyone's good. Everyone's there for a reason.
WTA Insider: What is life like for you on the WTA Doubles Circuit?
Guarachi: I would say it's a little more relaxed, I guess. We also aren't playing as long, intensive matches as singles players. So it's a little more relaxed in that way.
I love it because practicing doubles to me is so much fun. You're never just alone, one-on-one, that much. It's fun playing practice sets against other girls and finding what works for you and playing points and stuff.
I think with singles players, it's very intense. I'm serious when I'm on the court, but I play my best when I'm having fun. I think that is so important. And I think that's what doubles hopefully brings to a lot of people and even for people to watch. It's so much fun to watch. I love playing it.
I hope more people want to watch it. I understand the big names play singles and everything, but your day-to-day player is playing doubles every day and playing in these doubles leagues. I think it probably is interesting to them to see our signals and see what we're doing.
WTA Insider: What are some of the big stressors for doubles players on tour?
Guarachi: A big stress is, we don't really know if we're playing until sometimes a day before a tournament starts, if we're doing on-site sign-in, or two weeks before. I think singles players know a month before what their schedule is. For us, a lot of times it's two weeks. That's not that much time, really. We've got to book our flight, and we got to get somewhere. That's something that a lot of people don't really know.
It's funny, a lot of people that don't really know a lot about tennis, the biggest question I get all the time is like, do you get to choose your partner? A lot of people think, like, you just get paired up together. You have to have your combined ranking. It's not like I get to just play with whoever I want. I want to play with this girl, but she's not ranked high enough.
It's very strategic, how you find someone that you get along with that you like, that you know. Coming through the rankings this past year and a half I've finally started to get to know a lot of the more top-ranked doubles players. Before, I knew everyone from 60 to 100. Now I'm kind of getting into that next range.
I was so new to things I didn't know how to find partners. Player Relations has everyone's phone numbers, which I just found out about six months ago. I'd be looking for a partner for a Grand Slam, and I'd be trying to figure it out. They literally have everyone's number and will send it to you. But otherwise, it's Facebook if you don't have their number.
I've been playing a lot with the former doubles college players. A lot of the doubles players were singles players and then they kind of retired from singles and now they're just playing doubles and maybe they didn't maybe play in college. A lot of people don't do all these crazy formations. They just do regular a lot.
That's what I liked so much about college is you're always learning different tactics and you're doing I formation and all these things. I think that's why I'm really comfortable playing with some of these players, because I'm like, oh, yeah, I like to do that. Let's do that.
WTA Insider: What are some of the challenges of making it on the doubles tour?
Guarachi: I mean, it's definitely been tough. You're not making as much. You're splitting the prize money. I've been lucky enough that my parents are my coaches. So I don't really have to pay a coach. Now I have a coach that travels with me every now and then. But I don't have a full-time coach and I have to pay. So that's helped me a lot financially.
I play for Chile, so they actually helped me a lot. It's one of the biggest reasons I switched for them. I played Fed Cup for them. My goal is to play in the Olympics for them. I've been really lucky that they've been able to back me.
Some of the toughest parts are just finding your partners and having to plan so last minute. If you're going to Europe for a tournament and then all of a sudden you're supposed to play the next tournament and your doubles partner is sick or something happens, it's tough having to rely on other people and stuff.
WTA Insider: What do you enjoy about playing on the WTA tour?
Guarachi: I just love competing and like playing in front of people. That's what keeps me going. As long as I'm having fun, I'm going to keep playing. I've been so lucky to have really good partners that I really enjoy playing with. And I think that's to me, the key to my success.