© Elizabeth Olivier/UT Staff Photographer
Caitlin Whoriskey prepares to hit a backhand
© Elizabeth Olivier/UT Staff Photographer
Caitlin Whoriskey, the No. 1 player in both singles and doubles as a junior last season for the University of Tennessee women's tennis team, earned All-America honors in doubles last season after advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships and finishing the year ranked eighth with partner Natalie Pluskota.
A 21-year-old from East Sandwich, Mass., Whoriskey became the first Lady Vol in school history to be named to the USTA Summer Collegiate Team, an elite training program for the top American collegiate tennis players designed to provide them with valuable exposure to the USTA Pro Circuit in a team-oriented environment during the summer months. She has posted outstanding results on the USTA Pro Circuit this summer, with results that include reaching the singles and doubles finals at $10,000 St. Joseph, Mo., and, as a qualifier, reaching the doubles final and singles quarterfinals at $10,000 Hilton Head Island.
Caitlin took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for USTA.com about her experience this summer, her goals for her senior year and the future and more.
USTA.com: So far you’ve had a great summer playing the USTA Pro Circuit. How has that experience been?
Caitlin Whoriskey: So far the experience has been great. I have gotten to play some of the top players in the country and in the world. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the summer, playing in Hilton Head and making it to the quarterfinals in singles and finals in doubles. That is definitely a highlight to my summer so far but something I don’t want to settle for. My goal for this summer was to get a ranking, and I have already achieved that goal in the first three tournaments I have played. So for the rest of the summer I will be looking to improve my game and gain match experience and confidence in my game.
USTA.com: Back in June, you and Kelcy McKenna from Arizona State reached the semis of the $50,000 event in Boston, never having played together. How did that come about?
Caitlin Whoriskey: Yeah, Kelcy and I never played together. We only knew one another from playing a practice set at NCAAs last year and that our coaches are close friends. We both were picked for this year’s summer collegiate team, and people thought we should play together. We got to Boston, practiced a little bit together, then took out some good competition on our way to the semis. I think we made a good pair. Our games complimented each other. She was steady from the baseline and set up the points so that I could finish at the net. So, overall, it wasn’t bad for the first time playing together.
USTA.com: Do you think playing with different doubles partners helps you become a better doubles player?
Caitlin Whoriskey: I definitely believe that playing with different doubles partners makes you a better player. Playing with new partners forces you to sometimes play out of your comfort zone. You don’t know how your partner plays. You’re not sure when to say “mine” or “yours” or whether or not your partner is comfortable switching formations, for example. You are forced to make decisions based on what you are capable of and what you think is best for the team. You can’t win a doubles match by yourself, so by playing with new partners, you learn new strategies based on a person’s skill, and you play to your strengths, which will improve your all-around game.
USTA.com: Last week, you participated in the Women’s Pro Tour Transition Camp in Atlanta. How was it training alongside some of the other top collegians, plus the top juniors?
Caitlin Whoriskey: Training with top collegiate players and top juniors was a great experience. When I first got there, I was definitely intimidated by some of the players because I admire their game styles and what they have accomplished so far in their careers. But having the chance to train with them was great. We pushed each other to get better each day, and by the end of the week, we learned a lot about one another.
USTA.com: What did you learn from that experience?
Caitlin Whoriskey: From participating in the Transition Camp, I learned a lot about my game – my strengths, weaknesses and ways to improve. I learned what it takes to become the best tennis player I can be, which is pushing myself until I am uncomfortable and dead tired but finding the strength to do a little more. We were able to do that by the great coaches there pushing us each day. But the most important thing I learned was to incorporate more fist pumps and c’mons into my game. Haha. Thanks, Bobby!
USTA.com: You had an awesome junior year as a team and individually in both singles and doubles—including a run to the semifinals of doubles at the NCAA Championships with Natalie Pluskota. Going into your senior year, what are your goals for the team and for yourself?
Caitlin Whoriskey: Last year was a great year for the team and me. The team made it back to top 10 in the country, and Natalie and I also finished top 10 in doubles. So the bar is set high for this year, but we hope to improve. Definitely a goal would be to make it to Athens, Ga., as a team for NCAAs. Last year, we fell short of that goal, but I feel like we can definitely get there this year. Another goal would be to win the doubles at NCAAs. We had a great run last year, but we want to bring a national championship back to Knoxville. My last goal would be to become an All-American in singles. I have made it into the singles draw the past two years but haven’t accomplished my goal, so the third time’s the charm, I hope.
USTA.com: Any aspirations to play professionally once your career at Tennessee is over?
Caitlin Whoriskey: Yeah, I would definitely like to play professionally after school is over. Growing up, every tennis player has dreams of being the best in the world, and, for me, Tennessee is a stepping stone towards that dream. Going to school has prepared me for the professional tour. It has given me time to develop my game, as well as made me stronger physically and, most importantly, mature as a tennis player and person. So with just one more year of school left, I will continue to learn what I can so I can be as prepared for the pro tour as I can be.
USTA.com: What advice do you have for junior tennis players who want to play in college?
Caitlin Whoriskey: My advice would be for the junior players who want to go to college but have people telling them they should skip school and play professionally. For those juniors, I would have to say that school is a great choice. You get to play in a team atmosphere and play some of the best players in the country. You will improve your game tremendously. You will develop your weapons, improve your weaknesses and prepare yourself for the pro tour. You can do all this while getting an education, meeting people who will be your friends forever and have memories that will last a lifetime. School is a great experience, and I don’t think anyone should pass it up.