2023 USTA Althea Gibson Scholarship Award Recipient

Scott Sode | May 23, 2023

At the HBCU Springcoming festival in New York earlier this April, high school senior Jude Killikelly, of Queens, N.Y., was named the recipient of the USTA Althea Gibson Scholarship. The award—which was developed in partnership with USTA Eastern NJTLs and the HBCU Puissance Scholarship Committee—is bestowed upon a worthy individual who plays tennis and will be attending a HBCU in the fall. We talked to Killikelly—who will head to Hampton University in a couple months—about his academic achievements, his love of the game and why Felix Auger-Aliassime is his favorite player these days.


Congratulations on receiving the Althea Gibson Scholarship! One requirement for recipients of this award is a strong academic background. When you look back at your time in high school, what makes you most proud?


KILLIKELLY: I would say that my biggest accomplishment in high school was maintaining a high GPA while being a student-athlete and managing all the other extracurricular activities I was involved in. That included being the Teen Vice President and Teen Treasurer of the Queens Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc. I’m proud of these accomplishments because it took lots of dedication and sacrifice, and I’m looking forward to doing greater things in college and beyond.


What are some of your personal goals for Hampton University?


KILLIKELLY: I plan on majoring in Computer Science and potentially minoring in Leadership Studies. I want to really get involved in campus [activities] and also maintain a high GPA while being an athlete.


Another requirement for the scholarship is a background in tennis. When did you first pick up a racquet?


KILLIKELLY: I started playing at age seven. I was first introduced to the sport through my sister, who currently plays college tennis at Hartwick College. I would always attend her tournaments and practices when I was younger and that led me to have an interest in it.


What made you want to keep up with it? What do you love about the game?


KILLIKELLY: What I love most about it is how you are on the court by yourself. You need to find ways to win, no matter what the score is, all on your own. The sport calls you to try different tactics when something isn’t working. [Through playing] over the years, I have learned to be persistent and mentally strong. There is a point where talent isn’t the deciding factor of the match. It ultimately comes down to which player is willing to fight for every point.


Do you have a favorite on-court moment or memory?


KILLIKELLY: My greatest memory in tennis was when I was down a set in my high school tennis match and I came back and won the match in a third-set tiebreaker to send my school to the city semifinals for the first time in the school’s history.


The scholarship you received is named after an incredible tennis champion, Althea Gibson. How would you say her story has inspired you?


KILLIKELLY: Althea Gibson’s legacy has inspired me as an African American in a predominantly white sport to be confident in who I am as a player. Her legacy has shown me the importance of being resilient on and off the court. It motivates me to keep going even when it looks like things aren’t going my way.


You're clearly a big tennis fan. What current professional player do you love watching the most these days?


KILLIKELLY: Currently, my favorite professional player is Felix Auger-Aliassime because of the way that he carries himself on the court and also  his dominant serve and forehand. Even though his forehand may sometimes break down under pressure, I feel that he has a very high ceiling and bright future on the ATP Tour. I think he will eventually break into the Top 5.



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