Getting to know:
Ashley Marshall | October 28, 2019
Seventeen-year-old American Hailey Baptiste is putting the finishing touches to a breakout 2019 season that saw her win two ITF titles, break into the Top 300 and beat former US Open finalist Madison Keys in her WTA main-draw debut.
USTA.com spoke with Baptiste about her success, working with a new coach, overcoming a foot injury and making her Grand Slam debut.
USTA.com: Congratulations on a fantastic season. How would you evaluate the year you’ve had?
Hailey Baptiste: It started off pretty good, and I won my first title in the second tournament of the year, so that was really motivating. But then I ended up getting hurt, and I had to take a couple months off, and I missed a few big tournaments I was going to play. I came back, played a couple more tournaments and then got my second title this summer. ADVERTISEMENT Then I played Citi Open, which was really a big week for me, and I had a breakout match, beating Madison Keys. It was a really fun and exciting year, and I learned a lot.
USTA.com: What was the injury?
Hailey Baptiste: I sprained my ankle pretty bad, and I was on crutches for two weeks. I had to take a month and a half off, but I came back pretty fast and picked up where I left off.
USTA.com: Was that win against Madison a turning point for you, when you realized you can play with the very best players in the world on any given day?
Hailey Baptiste: I definitely think that was a really big moment for me. It was very motivating, and it gave me a lot of confidence that I can play with the top players on tour. My next match I didn’t play as well, but I learned a lot, and I knew what I needed to work on and change.
USTA.com: Did it make it extra special for you that you beat Madison in Washington, D.C.?
Hailey Baptiste: Definitely. It was my home town, and I really wanted all my family to come and see me. It was a really big moment for me and my family.
USTA.com: Did the $25K title that you won in Plantation in January set the tone for your season and give you validation that everything you had worked on in the offseason had paid off?
Hailey Baptiste: I felt really good going into the first couple weeks of competition after preseason, and I had a really good couple months of training [at the USTA National Campus] in Orlando. It definitely paid off.
USTA.com: Moving from the clay-court swing to the hard courts and having that success in Sumter, what was the biggest difference for you, considering most people consider you more of a clay-courter?
Hailey Baptiste: It really just showed people that I can play on both surfaces. I prefer clay—I’m more comfortable on it—but I’m just as comfortable on hard courts.
USTA.com: How big was it for you getting to play qualies at the US Open this summer?
Hailey Baptiste: That was really exciting and really fun to play. It was my first Grand Slam, so it was really special, and I was really happy that it was the US Open.
USTA.com: And, obviously, as well as all of the experience that comes from playing a Grand Slam event, you also earned $18,000 in singles. Can you put into perspective how valuable that is at this stage in your career and how far that money will go?
Hailey Baptiste: That can get me to five tournaments or so. I played doubles and mixed, too, so I made a good amount. That goes a long way on the level I’m on now.
USTA.com: How much fun was it playing main-draw doubles with Emma Navarro and mixed with Jenson Brooksby?
Hailey Baptiste: It was a lot of fun. It was very energetic, both matches, and it was my first time playing mixed. I didn’t know my partner that well, but we got along pretty good. We didn’t play that great, but it was a really fun experience.
USTA.com: Last year, you got to play with and against Caty McNally. You played against Coco Gauff in the girls’ doubles final. You played Bianca Andreescu in the juniors in 2016 in New York. How wild is it to see these players who you’ve grown up playing with having the level of success they’re having this year?
Hailey Baptiste: It’s pretty crazy playing the same tournaments as all of them. To see what they’re doing now is really cool, and it's motivating for me because I know I can do it, too. You can kinda tell which people are going to do well and which are probably not going to do as well.
USTA.com: This time last year, you were ranked around 550-560. Now you’re back on the verge of getting back in the Top 250. What has been the biggest change that’s allowed you to have the success that you’ve had?
Hailey Baptiste: I think just having a little bit more belief in myself. I recently got a new coach, so I think that’s helped a lot, too. The biggest thing is probably just having a little bit more belief in myself.
USTA.com: How did you start working with Peter Lucassen?
Hailey Baptiste: He was a contractor with the USTA; now he’s full-time. He’s my full-time coach, and I’m training at the USTA. We’re working really well together.
USTA.com: How long have you been working together?
Hailey Baptiste: About two months now.
USTA.com: And can you point to something he’s added to your game?
Hailey Baptiste: I think he’s really helping me with my mind on court, focusing every point and being in the match. Also knowing what to do in the point, how to structure points and when to play the right shots.
USTA.com: Looking at your season as a whole, would you say you’ve met your expectations?
Hailey Baptiste: Not yet. I have a goal to get Top 200, to try to do that by the end of the year, so I’m still pushing.
USTA.com: Whether you reach Top 200 this year or early next year, what does 2020 look like?
Hailey Baptiste: It’s going to depend on my next few weeks. I haven’t gone over my schedule with my coach yet, but hopefully to try and get into Australian Open qualies.
USTA.com: What do you need to do to take your game to the next level?
Hailey Baptiste: I think just having a little bit more structure with my mind. I don’t really think I need to change anything in my game.