While playing casually for fun is the best part of playing for some, others want to capture all the glory, but not everyone can reach the top of the tennis game. With around 3,000 pro players ranked between the ATP and WTA, that means less than 1% of all players around the world can go pro. One of those pros, 24-year-old Sofia Sewing, from Miami, Florida, sat down with USTA Florida to reflect on her tennis journey and demonstrate to young aspiring pros exactly what it takes to be at the top of tennis world.
Being a Tennis Pro Takes More Than Just Skill
For Sofia, it’s super important that she enjoys what she is doing day in and day out. “If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing and the process of where it’s going to take you, it’s a very difficult sport,” she said. With that said, Sofia wasn’t a fan of training when she was younger, in fact, she hated it.
“I used to hate training when I was younger, it was so many hours and it was so hot,” Sofia recalled. “But when [I got older] I started to love it, and enjoy being tired, and enjoy suffering. It’s the only way you’re able to keep going forward and get better on a daily basis.”
Young players in Florida have a lot of opportunities to fall in love with the grind and get noticed for their hard work on and off the court. “Overall, I think Florida is the best place for exposure in tennis,” Sofia said. “When I was in Miami, there were just so many academies and international kids who would come to Florida to train. I never had a lack of hitting partners, lack of people to train with, lack of coaches, or lack of facilities.”
Tennis is everywhere in Florida, whether at public parks or country clubs, the courts are bustling every day. Sofia loves that in this state you can always find someone around your skill level to hit with or practice with. “There is never a lack of tennis in Florida.”
On top of practice opportunities, Florida has a wide range of junior tournaments that top players from around the state and the world travel to compete in. From Florida’s Bobby Curtis Junior Championship to the Eddie Herr International Tennis Championships held at IMG Academy, there are many tournaments to play in and Sofia emphasized the importance of these in honing your skills and getting recognized.
“I won the Eddie Herr two years in a row, and it was a big thing for me as a junior,” she recalled. “Those events are extremely prestigious, and it gave me lots of exposure because they’re completely packed with college coaches.”
There are so many reasons why being in Florida is great for tennis athletes, you just need to be willing to put in the work.
What Does a Day in the Life of a Pro Look Like
While everyone wants to just play matches and win as much as possible, you have to spend countless hours on the practice court, perfecting your craft. For Sofia, her training is rigorous, focusing on her tennis skills and personal fitness.
“I do longer sessions in the morning, so about two to three hours of practicing tennis. Then in the afternoon I like to do my fitness for over an hour.” Depending on the weather Sofia will even push for a second tennis session on some days. “It kind of just depends on how you’re feeling body wise.”
Sofia makes sure to take good care of her body and knows that the recovery process is just as important as practicing. “I always have Sunday off and depending if I had a really hard week, I try to take two days off.”
Battling injuries can be difficult for some athletes, but Sofia makes sure to stay on top of injury prevention by understanding when her body is telling her she isn’t feeling 100%. She even takes some lighter training days, so she can still improve, but also give her body the rest it needs. “You need at least one day during the week to completely not do anything and just recover both physically and mentally.”
Being mentally strong is one of the most important parts of her game. “I would say mental is everything.” Between all the travel and training, Sofia noted that it can get really overwhelming and exhausting. She travels about once a month to some part of the world to compete or train and has been to over 35 counties because of tennis.
“It’s not just on the court, it’s with everything in tennis. I would say if you’re not mentally 100% or just no putting in 100% effort mentally, it can define whether you win or lose.” With her experience on the tour, she has learned very quickly that you have to be strong mentally, because it would be super easy to just give up, quit, and take some time off.
To help stay strong, she relies a lot on her dad, who has been there every step of the way in her tennis journey. “My dad has always been my person in terms of travel, coaching me, and being my therapist,” she said. “He kind of does everything in terms of what I need in the sport. I’ve always looked up to him, he’s a great person, he teaches me a lot, and we’ve experienced so much like traveling together.”
While Sofia has already accomplished so much in her young tennis career, her journey is far from over. “My main goal is to reach the slams, whether in qualifying or in the main draw because I feel that’s the biggest achievement tennis can give you.”