GETTING TO KNOW:
Nicholas Torres | March 8, 2019
American teenager Ann Li burst onto the international tennis stage in the summer of 2017 when she reached the girls’ final at Wimbledon. Now she’s hoping to find similar success on the professional tour.
That unexpected run to the championship match almost two years ago came with an equally unexpected perk—the opportunity to attend the Wimbledon Champions’ Ball where she got to meet her idol, Roger Federer.
The surreal moment was equal parts ‘fan girl,’ and a justifiable sense of belonging; both an acknowledgement for a job well job and a motivating factor for continued success.
Inspired by her run and filled with new unbridled confidence, the Pennsylvania native knew now how to find ways to win. Just two weeks after her deep run at Wimbledon Juniors, Li won her first professional tournament, a 15K ITF hard-court tournament in Evansville, Ind.
Asked about her first title on the ITF circuit, Li said it came almost out of nowhere.
“It felt really good,” she said. “That week I was just in London for Wimbledon, so I felt pretty good going into to it but I wasn’t expecting to win or anything.”
Even with a winners’ trophy, though, a deep run in the second week at the All England Club was always going to be tough to beat, especially when it is so fresh in her memory.
She remembers the week vividly, calling it “one of the best moments I’ve had so far.” Competing against countrywoman Claire Liu in the championship made the moment extra meaningful. “It was special because we were both American and Chinese, too, so it was just cool.”
Getting a photo with Federer was just icing on the cake.
“He has been my idol since like forever,” said Li, who loves music, watching movies, reading books, relaxing and playing the ukulele. “He’s someone I look up to and want to be like. He’s been my role model for a long time. He’s like almost perfect and the way he plays is so effortless. I love how he’s not on the baseline the whole time, he moves around and moves forward. He’s so nice and he does so much outside tennis, and I think that’s something to really appreciate from him.”
Li is currently at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., training twice a day for the upcoming clay-court season. After having a great couple months of preseason, Li says she’s feeling stronger than before. After making the transition to the recently revamped World Tennis Tour, Li now has a better idea about what she has to do to be successful.
“It’s great for young players, there’s not that many clay courts in general so it’s so great to have red clay here to get ready for tournaments or wherever you’re going,” Li said of the National Campus. “The gym is amazing, indoor courts, outdoor courts and red clay. It really has everything you need to improve your game.”
“Once you get to a certain point everyone is good, and it comes down to how mentally strong you are.”
With a major junior final and her first professional title in the rearview mirror, the 18-year-old is now looking ahead to bigger things to come.
“Well I think for me, my goal is to win Wimbledon,” she said. “I want to see how good I can get, and each day I try to prove it and see where it takes me.”