Robin Montgomery, the future of women’s tennis – The Undefeated

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As the player development manager at one of Maryland’s top youth tennis centers, Ali Agnamba has grown accustomed to newcomers who walk through the doors of the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) without confidence. But Agnamba immediately saw something special the first time he saw Robin Montgomery, then 6, be dropped off by her mother at JTCC – just to keep her physically active.

“All she wanted to do was hit balls, and at the age of 6 you couldn’t help but notice her abilities and her presence,” Agnamba said. “She walked in and immediately wanted to be better than everyone her age. The way she absorbed while watching older players, I immediately said, “This girl can be special if she puts the work into it.” “

In September, Montgomery proved Agnamba a diviner. Just days after turning 17, Montgomery had quite a Saturday on September 11, winning the Junior Girls US Open title in the afternoon, followed by the Junior Girls US Open title that night. . This is the first sweep of these US Open titles since 2004, and the first sweep by an American since Lindsay Davenport accomplished the feat in 1992.

Robin Montgomery of the United States celebrates with the Championship trophy after defeating Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus in their girls’ singles final match on Day 13 of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 11 in Queens, New York.

Sarah Stier / Getty Images

For Montgomery, those matches marked the end of one chapter – it was the last time she competed as a junior – and the introduction of the next, as she began her full-time professional career from October.

Her goals ?

“Get a lot of games on the pro tour and gain experience,” she said. “My goal is to win a Slam and become a Top 5 player. After seeing what Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez did to reach the US Open final, it shows that anything can happen in the women’s tennis.

Montgomery lives in Washington, and her development as a tennis player occurred near College Park, Md., In the same tennis center that laid the foundation for professional player Frances Tiafoe’s career. This center, the JTCC, is supported by the USTA Foundation and the National Junior Tennis and Learning Network and offers an introduction to tennis and tips to help players reach their potential.

Montgomery and Tiafoe, who also had a strong performance at the US Open, where he reached the second quarter-finals of his career, are two of the recent JTCC successes in Montgomery County, Maryland.

“Our program is designed to keep children in sport and while tennis can be considered an expensive sport, we are not turning anyone away for financial reasons,” Agnamba said. “For what Robin and Frances have been able to do in New York this year, it shows people watching from the outside how special our program is and what kind of tennis players we are able to develop. “

This development does not go without a work ethic. Montgomery showed this ethic as soon as she first entered the facility. She asked a lot of questions, studied older players, and always showed up early to do extra work.

“Some kids would do what you want them to do, but Robin would come to me and ask me, ‘What can I do to improve myself in this area? “,” Said Agnamba. “When she got into trouble with her serve, I told her to hit 5,000. She got there early and hit extra serves, and recorded everything in her diary until she was done.

Montgomery was 15 when she won the under-18 division of the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament in 2019 while also placing fifth in the world for juniors. She turned professional in 2020 and won her first professional title in March 2020 at the International Tennis Federation / USTA $ 25,000 tournament in Las Vegas.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing the world to live a life of isolation.

“Even though it was hard not to be on the pitch and not know when we were going to compete, the pandemic was good for me because it allowed me to focus on my fitness,” Montgomery said. “I even changed my diet, switched to plant-based, and while I miss the double bacon cheeseburgers, it has helped me get back to the shape I am in today.”

As the sports world returned to 2020, Montgomery actually made it to the 2020 US Open when she lost her first round match to Yulia Putintseva (then ranked No.23 in the world).

This year, Montgomery tried to reach the main draw at the US Open, but lost his first qualifying game. This led to her entering the junior draw, where she was the No.7 seed.

“Honestly my goal wasn’t to win, it was to go out and have fun knowing this was my last junior tournament,” said Montgomery. “My real goal was just to try to get through the third round, to be honest. Holding those trophies at the end made me feel good and was just one more step towards where I want to be in my career. “

This next step – as a full-time pro – brings her to a women’s division where 14 players have won in the last 18 Grand Slam tournaments. Watching two teenagers compete for the 2021 US Open title and witnessing the rise of Coco Gauff inspired Montgomery.

“It’s great to watch,” Montgomery said of teenage success on the biggest sports scene. “And seeing how Coco got on the scene is definitely motivating because it shows that anything is possible.”

As Montgomery enters this next phase of his career, his friend, mentor and occasional JTCC training companion, Tiafoe, offered some advice.

“He told me it was going to be a very long drive, and while I’m at it, take the time to enjoy it,” Montgomery said. “As I develop my game to its full potential, that’s exactly what I’m going to do – enjoy the journey.”

Jerry Bembry is a senior screenwriter at The Undefeated. Items on her to-do list include serenading Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play an NBA game in June.


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