Brian Ormiston | September 13, 2018
It can be the simple things that cause Maegan Manasse to smile as she competes on the USTA Pro Circuit. While winning and playing the sport she loves helps, one experience opens her eyes.
“At the Berkeley $60,000 [event], that was the very first time I had a ball kid hold an umbrella for me. That's one of the first moments I felt like a true professional, because you really only see that on TV,” said Manasse. “It was so cute and really exciting.”
Manasse has enjoyed a small perk like that a little bit more than most players lately. Dating back to her senior season at the University of California in 2016-17, Manasse endured a difficult ride as she attempted to transition to the professional pathway.
Hailing from Redondo Beach near Los Angeles, Manasse grew up with two older sisters who played tennis, as Stephanie represented Cal and Rachel competed at Long Beach State. ADVERTISEMENT When Maegan was a sophomore in high school, she realized she could follow in her sisters’ footsteps.
“I would like to think I had a pretty pleasant recruiting process,” said Manasse. “I always loved having coaches watching me at tournaments. I felt as if it helped me raise my game. I had a few schools looking at me, but when Cal came along in the process, everything seemed perfect to me. It only took a month for the process of [Head Coach] Amanda [Augustus] reaching out to me, for me to take a visit and verbally commit.”
Manasse made an immediate statement, ultimately collecting five All-American honors. In 2015, she donned the Red, White and Blue when the United States won the 2015 Master’U BNP Paribas title in France, a tournament that features the best women’s and men’s college tennis players in the world. That squad also featured two Americans currently making waves on the WTA and ATP Tours in Danielle Collins and Mackenzie McDonald.
The team aspect was her favorite part of college tennis overall.
“One of the things I enjoyed the most was being able to play for a team,” reflected Manasse. “Tennis is such an individualized sport. When you go to college to play tennis, it's such an amazing feeling being able to compete and win for something bigger than yourself. I had so much fun competing with my teammates and best friends. I learned so much about different cultures with each of my teammates being from different places all around the world.”
During that last campaign with the Bears, she suffered a major setback and endured a crazy final semester.
“The summer before my senior year, I was playing a few professional tournaments and I unfortunately got a partial tear in my UCL in my elbow,” said Manasse. “I was told by the doctor that I could take some time off and continue to play on it without any surgery.”
“A couple months later and into the spring season I was still having pain. I wanted to finish playing out my senior year so I decided to keep playing. I was only having pain with serving and not any other stroke, so the coaches and I agreed that I could continue to play if I wanted to underhand serve. It was definitely an interesting and slightly fun experience underhand serving for the last semester of my college career. It will definitely be something I will never forget.”
Manasse got elbow surgery in August 2017, and joined her old team as an undergraduate assistant coach for the 2017-18 season, as she gained even more knowledge about the game all while recovering. She eventually returned to competitive tennis almost a year after her operation, winning her first two matches of qualifying at the $25,000 event in Bethany Beach, Del., and also claiming the doubles title. Two weeks later, she went through qualifying at the $15,000 event in Victoria, B.C., picking up seven WTA points en route to the finals before losing to fellow American Gail Brodsky.
After a first-round victory in the $60,000 event in Berkeley, Calif., in July, Manasse registered her most dominant performance a few days later. She cruised through three qualifying matches at the $60,000 event in Ashland, Ky., and then won four more contests (three in three sets) before again falling to Brodsky in the title match. With 53 more ranking points in hand, she entered the WTA Top 500 for the first time.
“It's been such an up and down process and I've had so many doubts in my mind that maybe I shouldn't continue to play tennis, and maybe just continue my education,” said Manasse, who claims a UTR of 12.31 as of Aug. 6. “Especially after my first couple matches, there was so much hesitation if playing tennis was truly the path that I wanted to follow. There were a couple times where I honestly thought that I should quit and find another passion, but I told myself I would give myself two years to reach a certain goal."
“In Bethany Beach I was excited, nervous, scared, happy. I think I felt every single emotion at some point or another. I won two rounds in qualifying which was really exciting, but I lost pretty badly in the last round. I was devastated and I was really concerned that maybe this was not the path I should pursue. Luckily, my partner [former UCLA standout] Robin Anderson and I ended up winning the tournament in doubles, which was really shocking for my first tournament back, and it gave me hope. I made a list of things that I needed to work on, which ultimately led me to the finals in Victoria. I was kind of shocked I kept winning.”
The Ashland event was another turning point, not just from a results standpoint but also as a professional tennis player on the road.
“I wasn't really sure what to expect with this tournament honestly,” said Manasse. “I wanted to make sure to remember to take it one match at a time and not look too far ahead in the draw. I was a little nervous for the last round of qualifying because I knew I had never made it to a main draw of a $60,000 [event] after playing qualifying… I had so much fun playing in Ashland and I became friends with a lot of the residents and volunteers; I felt as if I almost had a home-court advantage because of the people I had rooting for me.”
“Out of the tournaments I've played, my favorite part is developing relationships with the people I stay with in housing. It's hard traveling so many days out of the year and I'm sure it is very easy to get homesick. So far, each place I've stayed at, my housing families have made me feel at home. That's not easy with every city being so different. But with these families opening up their homes to me and to other players, it makes me feel more comfortable at the tournament and I've had so much fun learning about each of the cities I’ve stayed in. I've made so many friends and fans from housing.”
“After [my first] few tournaments [of 2018], I would say I am definitely on the right track. My injury has given me a greater appreciation for tennis and has helped me really enjoy every moment and opportunity I have to compete.”
So that umbrella? Manasse should get used to it, along with plenty more perks in the future.