Chan Heads Women's Tennis Turnaround

April 30, 2009

By Taylor Soper
The UW Daily

From the beginning, tennis just felt right for Washington women's tennis star Venise Chan.

Literally.

'When I was younger, I liked round things and the fluffy tennis balls,' Chan said.

The native of Hong Kong was introduced to the game by her father, who first began to teach Chan's older sister the game he enjoyed. As her sister lost interest in the game, Chan embraced a sport she would soon dominate.

After numerous junior tournament appearances around the world, Hong Kong's No. 1-ranked player is having one of the most impressive seasons by any Husky in history. Assistant coach Damon Coupe has worked closely with Chan since her freshman year, and he's been impressed with her talent and determination.

'She absolutely has the ability to win the entire [NCAA] tournament,' Coupe said. 'I came from Berkeley, where I was working with three All-Americans. I've seen what the champions have, and she has that ability.'

Chan, ranked 18th in the country for singles, has won 27 dual matches this season and is the first top-20 Husky since Dea Sumantri was ranked No. 5 in 2005. She hasn't lost a single set in singles play in more than a month.

Before coming to the UW, Chan completed online high-school courses for three years so she could compete internationally. Along with traveling around the world and playing at all four of the junior major tournaments, Chan practiced six hours a day, five days a week. The determined sophomore brought her strong work ethic to Seattle.

'She's just really driven this year,' Coupe said of Chan. 'She wants to be an All-American, and she keeps repeating that she wants to be in the top 16. Her drive and mental ability is incredible.'

Chan, the Huskies' No. 1 singles player, has been a big part of the turnaround in women's tennis. Last year, Chan led the Dawgs to their first NCAA appearance in three years. In 2006, the UW won three matches; this year, they finished with an impressive 16-7 record, with all but one loss coming from top-20 opponents.

'We were very fortunate to get [Chan] when we did,' head coach Jill Hultquist said. 'It's hard to turn around a program, so having someone with her abilities has really helped us build the program.'

As a freshman in 2008, Chan was still learning the ins and outs of college tennis. She now has a year under her belt and is more determined to become a better player.

'She's been a lot more motivated this year,' Coupe said. 'After going through last year and losing at the NCAA tournament, she realized that she had some things she needed to work on.'

Much of Chan's success is credited to her ability to play as a baseline player.

'I stand right on the baseline, and I try to hit early and give the other players less time,' Chan said.

Nicknamed 'Little Hollywood,' Chan has excellent technique and incredible speed. Even Coupe is still sometimes surprised by how good of a player she is.

'She's one of the fastest tennis players I've ever seen in college,' he said. 'I hit with her, and I think I've hit a winner, and all of a sudden, she gets there and hits an offensive shot back. She really can frustrate a lot of players by hitting the unexpected shot.'

Among the numerous differences from Hong Kong and Seattle, Chan said that one of the biggest changes is the team aspect of college tennis. In Hong Kong, even some teammates saw one another as enemies.

'Back in Hong Kong, you were the only one who could help yourself,' she said. 'The team [at UW] builds my confidence, and they want the team to do well.'

Chan qualified yesterday for the NCAA championships and could come away with a trophy this season.

'If she catches fire, she could absolutely win the whole thing,' Coupe said.

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