Asia Muhammad was born into a family of athletes. Her parents played basketball; her brother Shabazz plays for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. Muhammad chose tennis, and almost instantly became a star on the junior circuit.
"I started having really good results, beating the top college players," she told WTA Insider after beating Donna Vekic for just her second career WTA main draw win at the Brisbane International. "When I was younger, they had the rankings, and I started to beat them pretty badly. I started to think, "Why not? School is always going to be here." My dad went to USC, and so that's where I was going to go; it was always a dream, but if I want to do this, I need to start now.
"People sometimes ask me if I regret not going to school, and I honestly say no. My best friend went to USC, so I've still gone there to hang out, but I don't regret it at all."
At her last two junior tournaments, Muhammad earned wins over the likes of Heather Watson and Kristina Mladenovic, but the American admitted her all-court game took time to develop as she transitioned onto the senior level.
"In the beginning, I was always tall, so I was more of a power player. When I was 10, my coach Tim Blinkiron - who's in Vegas and is Australian - right from the beginning, he had me volleying. Now, I'm so thankful for that, because the older you get, the tougher it is to try and do that. He's always had me volleying, playing mini-tennis against boys, just for my hands.
"He's always known what he wanted my game to be; I've trailed behind, not really trusting in it. But now, I'm getting to that stage where I know what I need to do and working on it. It's there, but I just need to trust in it and do that."
At 25 years old, Muhammad sees herself as a late bloomer in the vein of Samantha Stosur, one whose early investments could pay off big in the next few years.
"I think a lot of players who play like me had their successes later too, and it came with doubles first. I think doubles is a huge part of helping my singles with all the volleying."
Muhammad is already a Top 50 doubles player, winning two titles in the last two years, and ended the 2016 season partnering Nicole Gibbs to reach the final of a WTA 125K in Hawaii. The pair joined up with other rising Americans like Shelby Rogers and Kayla Day for a pre-season bootcamp in Carson, California - courtesy of the United States Tennis Association.
"This was definitely my best pre-season of my career so far. Nicole and I would do fitness every day together and really push each other. That was very crucial to my pre-season training. I wasn't in Vegas - that's where I live - and I just knew I wanted something with a lot of structure, and that's what you're going to get there. We played a lot of tennis, had fitness every day, had amazing fitness trainers and physios helping us. It had everything there, and that helped a lot.
"That was the biggest difference, knowing myself and that I need to have structure, and then finding that and staying and sticking with that."
Getting to know herself as a player and athlete has already paid dividends in Australia, where Muhammad enjoys ordering the local lattes.
"It's definitely been up and down," she said looking back on her career thus far. "I was one of the up and coming juniors, doing really well. I got stuck a little, trying to figure things out with my game. I try to move forward, and do a lot of different things. I think that takes a little bit longer to put all of that together because there's a lot of moving parts.
"How I try to play takes a lot of guts, so I would get stuck not doing it, and then trying. That would make me feel all over the place. But this year, I just want to have consistent plays, doing the right things on the court no matter what.
"Maybe it's taken me until 25 to really figure that out, but there's nothing wrong with that; I'm only competing against myself. I'm really happy, healthy, and in a really good spot now. Everything that's happened so far, I feel like that's helped me get to where I need to get."
Muhammad takes on World No.6 Karolina Pliskova on Tuesday morning.
More quick hits from Muhammad...
On growing up in a family of athletes...
It's good because my mom and dad played basketball, my brothers played basketball. My brother Shabazz, who plays in the NBA, is so supportive. He's literally my biggest fan; when he comes to watch me play, he gets so into it and wants me to do so well. But it's also good because when I'm away from tennis, I can watch him play, and it's a break. My whole family play sports, and so they understand the life and are really supportive.
From a young age, we were all so competitive. I used to play basketball against my brothers, and back when I was taller than them, I could beat them and push them around. But we went from being really competitive at a young age to just being so supportive of one another. We want each other to do well, like if I have a good win and Shabazz has a good game, it's such a great day for us to be able to do it as a team even if we're not playing the same sport.
On debating individual vs. team sports with her family...
We've definitely had disagreements with that, because, just for example, when you're playing the first set of a match and get nervous or struggling, you can't time out, sub, or do anything like that. I tell them how lucky they are to be able to do things like that, and that I'm out there by myself. Luckily, you have a partner to help you in doubles, but we've disagreed about things like that. I tell them, 'You can go sit on the bench for a little; I can't!'
On playing tennis with Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf in Las Vegas...
I think the thing that really helped was that my cousin and I were both living in Vegas, and we both started playing at the Andre Agassi Boys and Girls Club. Andre and Steffi would come out and were so nice; they would hit with us and everything. I just like the environment and the people around. It was a really good vibe.
On who she calls for dinner at tournaments...
Lately it's been the American girls; I've been hanging out with Christina McHale a lot because we're playing doubles. I also hang out with Samantha Crawford, Nicole Gibbs. We'll do dinners and it's just easy. We want each other to do well, and so it's easy to hang out and talk about things. They understand; not only did I spend the pre-season with most of them, I grew up with them as well. Christina and I grew up traveling together in juniors. It's crazy.
On the last song she listened to...
Can I look? Let's see. It was Starboy by The Weeknd.
All photos courtesy of Tennis Photo Network and Getty Images.