Catching Up With Hilary Barte

April 8, 2010

Left-handed junior tennis player Hilary Barte from Chatsworth, Calif., has a string of notable career achievements, including earning All-American honors in singles and doubles during her time here at Stanford. The 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year has been compared to some Cardinal tennis greats, but there is more to this leading tennis player than you may know. GoStanford sat down with Barte to catch up on school, tennis, and much more!

GoStanford.com: When did you start playing tennis and how has your love for the game grown over the years?

Barte: I started playing tennis at age 6 at the local tennis courts with my dad and older brother and sister. My dad always tells us the story of how he saw an old couple playing tennis and said “that’s the sport I want my kids to play.” However, my parents are not athletes, so they had no intention of making us great athletes. They always tell me how surprising it was for them to find that I was actually pretty good at it.

Tennis was actually my second favorite sport to basketball growing up...tennis was just too frustrating for me. I had a really bad temper until I was 13, so once I got rid of my crazy anger I was able to enjoy the game and learned to love the competition. Basically, I love challenges, and tennis always challenges me, even in the smallest ways, so that is what I have enjoyed most over the years.

GoStanford.com: What has been one of the most crowning moments in your life?

Barte: One of the most crowning moments in my life was playing in the US Open the summer before coming to Stanford. I think it’s every young tennis player’s dream to play in a grand slam, and even though I didn’t take the place by storm or anything, just the fact that I was able to play there was a huge honor. I also remember hugging my dad after losing my match, and he said, “Hilary, my dream for your tennis has come true. Thank you for letting me experience this with you. You will always be a champion in my eyes, and I am very proud of you.” I can’t even put into words the gratification and just pure joy I felt after my dad, the one person who had been there with me through thick and thin, said that to me.

GoStanford.com: Tell us about your major and some of your intellectual interests.

Barte: I’m majoring in International Relations with a specialization in political economy. My parents are foreign, so I have always had an interest in the way different countries interact and the way the international order functions in general. Furthermore, I like trying to figure out how to “walk around the leaf” (that's from the movie, A Bug’s Life), in other words, trying to find solutions to problems. Whether it’s trying to think of creative solutions to current issues in international relations or trying to find the best way to keep my bike seat dry when it’s raining. This sounds kind of dorky, but I am convinced that if I was a genius I would have loved to major in math here - I like learning different techniques of how to solve problems, and then figuring out for myself how to use these techniques to solve problems that are thrown my way.

GoStanford.com: What is the biggest challenge of being a student-athlete at Stanford?

Barte: The biggest challenge of being a student-athlete at Stanford is managing the stress from both sports and school. We takes classes with some of the brightest minds in the country, and the professors expect nothing less from athletes. It’s nice to not be put in the dull athlete category,but it can get tough to keep up with this standard when we’re traveling and missing so much class. Also, it’s a challenge knowing that everyday after I get through practice and workout, I still have a ton of school work to do. It’s pretty stressful! But, those days when we don’t have practice, I almost feel like I don’t know what to do with myself because there’s so much time in the day. Basically, being a student-athletes is a huge grind but also extremely rewarding.

GoStanford.com: Is there a quote or mantra that motivates and inspires you on and off the court?

Barte: John Wooden wrote, “Make everyday your masterpiece.” I love that quote because it motivates me to try and improve myself even in the smallest ways, both in life and on the tennis court.

GoStanford.com: Describe how you would introduce yourself if you were writing an autobiography of yourself?

Barte: I would introduce myself by saying that for me, family comes first. I am really close with my parents, especially my dad, and even closer with my brother and sister. They have made me the person I am today, so to know me is to know my family. Then I would say that my dad’s teaching me of how to get rid of my temper was the greatest gift anyone could ever give me. Once I was able to manage my emotions and anger, I was able to relax and enjoy even the simplest things. Most importantly, not getting angry helps me to think clearly and as best as I can in chaotic situations. I know for a fact that if I still had a temper, I would be a grumpy person who found everything annoying. I'm just thankful I'm not that way. In fact, I’ll always be a kid. Even when I’m 70 I’ll still enjoy my favorite cherryflavored popsicles and orange Sour Patch kids.

GoStanford.com: If you could play doubles with any tennis player in the world, who would it be?

Barte: If I could play doubles with any tennis player in the world, it would have to be Roger Federer. Not only is he obviously a ridiculous tennis player, but I think he would be fun to get along with and make jokes with while we’re playing. Since most of the balls would be hit to me (as the weaker link), I also think he wouldn’t get mad at me if I missed, so that’s always encouraging. Plus, I’d ask him if we could wear matching “RF” hats (that’s his clothing line within Nike)... such a cool design!

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