ON GRAND SLAM DEBUT IN PARIS
Ashley Marshall | June 11, 2018
American teenager Caroline Dolehide is having a breakout season that has included winning the biggest tournament of her career in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., pushing world No. 1 Simona Halep to three sets in Indian Wells and reaching the second round of the French Open as a qualifier.
The 19-year-old from Hinsdale, Ill., spoke with USTA.com about making her Grand Slam main-draw debut, following in the footsteps of her big sister and being on the verge of breaking into the Top 100 of the WTA rankings for the first time.
USTA.com: You’ve had a few days to let it sink in. Can you describe your experiences at the French Open and how you felt making your Grand Slam main-draw debut?
Caroline Dolehide: I think being back at the French [Open] was really nice. I played juniors there three years ago, so coming back and playing at the same center was awesome. ADVERTISEMENT Not getting into Rome and treating that as a training week was really good preparation so I was ready to play a lot of matches. I was excited to be there.
USTA.com: What were some of the biggest things you learned about yourself at the French Open?
Caroline Dolehide: Probably just all the preparation and recovery that we did between days and being professional with everything we did. Being on the road for that long is hard, and playing a lot of matches is tough, so recovering is a huge part of that.
USTA.com: You won the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Indian Harbour Beach without dropping a set. How much confidence did that give you headed into the European clay-court season?
Caroline Dolehide: It gave me a lot of confidence because they were really tough conditions. It was really windy, and I wasn’t playing my best tennis, so to win a tournament like that was really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten past the first round there the past two years, so to win that tournament was really cool and in front of my family was even better.
USTA.com: You were in first place in the USTA Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge after that event. What went into the decision to travel to Morocco and play in Rabat rather than stay and play some more of the USTA Pro Circuit events on the green clay?
Caroline Dolehide: I definitely had a wild-card opportunity here if I kept playing the U.S. series, but we felt that getting on the red clay before the French was more important than a wild card, and I totally agree. So I went over there and played a couple tournaments, which I didn’t do great in, but I got the experience of going to different places and going to different events, so I think it was a smart move.
USTA.com: What’s the biggest difference between red and green clay?
Caroline Dolehide: I’ve only played on red clay a handful of times, so I’m not a huge expert on red clay versus green clay. But to me, green clay is a little bit thicker, but it definitely depends on where you’re playing because the French Open is a little bit faster, and green clay is a little bit slower. It’s definitely different moving on red clay because it’s a little smoother than green clay.
USTA.com: You’re at a new career-high of No. 106 in the rankings. How important is it to break into the Top 100?
Caroline Dolehide: I think that’s huge. I’ve talked about being Top 100 for the last year. That was one of my goals for last year. I’m getting there this year, so it’s huge for me because Top 100 is something I’ve always thought about. Once I get Top 100, I can come up with new goals, like Top 50.
USTA.com: Can you point to something in your game that you’ve done differently in the past six months to take your game to the next level?
Caroline Dolehide: I think definitely my movement. I’m moving in and out of the court a lot better, and I’m also using my backhand slice a ton more. I’m working with [coach] Stephen Huss, and he has a really good backhand slice, a strong backhand side, so that’s been really helpful.
USTA.com: After that three-setter you played against Simona Halep in Indian Wells in March, did that give you the confidence and self-belief that you can compete with anybody?
Caroline Dolehide: For sure. I think it also gave other people confidence, too, because all the Americans are doing so well and competing with such high athletes. For me to go out there and show the world No. 1 that I was pretty close to beating her, it definitely gave me confidence. It was pretty cool.
USTA.com: Take me back to the beginning. How were you introduced to tennis, and how did your love for the sport develop?
Caroline Dolehide: I didn’t grow up in a huge tennis town or tennis area, but my older sister started to get really good, and I started around the same time she did. She was 11, and I was 5. It was really fun going to summer camps at Burn’s Field near my house and meeting a ton of different kids that I’m still friends with today. It was that experience of not taking it too seriously, just having fun and getting out there and meeting new people. I loved that part of it. It was about a five-minute bike ride from my house with my sister every single morning, from 7-9 and 1-4. I was pretty much there all day.
USTA.com: Having Courtney as that big-sister role model and then with your sister Stephanie and your brother Brian also being pretty active, would you say you come from a sporting family?
Caroline Dolehide: For sure, yeah. My older sister won the NCAAs [team title] with UCLA with tennis. My brother is a golfer at Florida Atlantic University, and Steph is going to West Point for tennis. We’re all super into athletics and super competitive.
USTA.com: How close were you to following Courtney to UCLA when you committed to play there before going pro?
Caroline Dolehide: I was very close. I followed in her footsteps pretty much all my life up until I was 17 or 18, when I decided not to go. I took my own path, and I was very close. The turning point was definitely realizing how hard I was working here and what I had going on here. I definitely saw a bigger dream, and I wanted it.
USTA.com: When you were in high school and started taking the online classes after your sophomore year, was that when you knew you wanted to spend more time dedicating yourself to tennis?
Caroline Dolehide: For sure. I’m from Chicago, and I played a lot of indoor tennis, so getting those few weeks in Boca [Raton in Florida] really wasn’t cutting it. I wanted to spend more time there, so did the USTA. So during that period, my parents agreed with me – the only way I could go down there more often was if I took classes online, which I did. I started working with Stephen, and it took off from there.
USTA.com: What does your schedule look like for the next few months?
Caroline Dolehide: I’ll play Birmingham and Wimbledon, and that’s going to be it for the grass season. I’m going to be playing in the U.S., so I think I’ll start [the hard-court season] off in D.C. and see what happens there.
USTA.com: Your current ranking is close to earning direct entry into the main draw of the US Open. What would it mean to get to play the home Slam?
Caroline Dolehide: New York is a huge place, and that tournament is incredible, and what the USTA does at that tournament is mind-blowing every single year. There’s always something new when you go there. It would be very exciting to make it into the main draw and play there because I’ve never played main draw there. I have really good memories from juniors, so it would be really exciting.
USTA.com: After getting so close to the Top 100 now, what does success look like for the rest of the season?
Caroline Dolehide: I guess success for me would probably mean that I’m working as hard as I can to be my best and doing all the right things with my team. I don’t think success would be measured in what ranking I get but more about my development.