Cougars Introduce Women's Tennis Coach Raquel Atawo
Washington State Women's Head Tennis Coach Raquel Atawo was introduced Wednesday afternoon at a press conference in Pullman.
Below is the initial release from July 2, 2021, when Atawo was announced as the Cougars' eighth coach in program history.
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University Director of Athletics Pat Chun announced July 2 the hiring of Raquel Atawo to guide the Cougar Women's Tennis program. Atawo will be introduced to the Pullman community at a welcome reception Wednesday, July 7.
"We are excited to welcome Raquel, Toby and Dominic to the Cougar Family," said Chun. "Raquel has excelled at the highest levels of championship tennis and it is apparent those traits have translated to her coaching career. Her ability to motivate and inspire those around her are strengths that will keep Cougar Tennis on an upward trajectory. We are fortunate to have Raquel leading our program."
Atawo arrives in Pullman having the spent the past season as the women's assistant coach at Auburn University. During the 2020-21 campaign, the Tigers posted a 14-9 record and finished the season ranked No. 22, their highest ranking since the 2017 season. For her efforts, Atawo was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southern Region Assistant Coach of the Year.
"Being named the women's head tennis coach at Washington State University is an honor and a privilege," said Atawo. "I want to thank so many people, but especially Athletic Director Pat Chun, Deputy Director's Bryan Blair and Anne McCoy as well as Associate Athletic Director Bill Stevens. Through hard work and dedication, I will use this opportunity to continue developing the Washington State Tennis program and build something special. I am thrilled to be heading to Pullman, where there is amazing community support for its athletics programs and its student-athletes. Go Cougs!"
During the past season, Atawo helped guide the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament, where Auburn advanced to the second round. The Tigers recorded several historic moments during the 2020-21 season, including the program's first-ever win over Florida, a win in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017, and sophomore Selin Ovunc earning All-America honors after advancing to the Round of 16 at the NCAA Singles Championship.
Prior to Auburn, Atawo spent one season at her alma mater, California, and began her coaching career as a volunteer assistant at UC Davis.
During her 15-year professional career on the WTA Tour, Atawo was ranked as high as No. 10 in the world in doubles and No. 162 in singles. She won 18 doubles tournament titles as a professional and reached the semifinals at the Australian Open in 2014 and Wimbledon in 2015 and 2016. Throughout her professional career, she appeared in 50 Grand Slam events. She was a two-time qualifier for the WTA Year End Championships and reached the finals of 26 WTA Tour doubles events.
In addition to the WTA Tour, Atawo played seven seasons of World Team Tennis, winning the league title in 2012 with the Washington Kastles and conclude her WTT career in 2019 with the Philadelphia Freedoms, where she was named the WTT Female MVP.
She wrapped up her playing career in 2019, reaching the doubles quarterfinals at the Australian Open, second rounds at Wimbledon, Roland Garros and first round at the U.S. Open. Her last match at Wimbledon came on the famed Centre Court while her final match as a professional came at the U.S. Open.
As a collegiate player at Cal, Atawo, then Kops-Jones, was a five-time All-American in both singles and doubles and was the 2004 ITA Senior Player of the Year and Pac-10 Player of the Year. She was ranked No. 1 nationally in singles most of the season and was the first player from Cal to win the Pac-10 singles championship. Atawo was also the first Division I African-American female to win a national collegiate singles title when she captured the 2003 ITA/Riviera All-American Championship.
Atawo and doubles partner Christina Fusano teamed up to win the NCAA doubles title in 2003, and they were the Pac-10 doubles champions in 2002 and 2003. She began her career at Cal by being named the 2001 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. She was inducted into the Cal Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.
A native of Fresno, Calif., Atawo graduated from Cal in 2004 with a degree in American Studies. In 2015, she married former Cal track & field athlete Toby Atawo and they have a young son, Dominic.
What They Are Saying About Raquel Atawo:
"I've known Raquel for 20 years as a top collegiate player, a world-ranked professional, and now as a coach. One would be hard-pressed to find a coach in college tennis who has more elite level WTA playing experience than Raquel. But Raquel's best trait is her strength of character. Her integrity, empathy, and tenacity will ensure that the Cougar women's tennis program will be in good hands for many years to come."
Kevin Epley, Head Women's Tennis Coach, University of South Carolina
"I am really excited to hear Raquel has returned to the Conference of Champions in Pullman. As a former No. 1 player in the nation while at Cal, to her very successful WTA career, Raquel truly knows what it takes to be a successful Pac-12 student-athlete and will represent WSU with class and integrity as a coach. I am happy for Raquel and her family and look forward to having another former player coaching in the league. Go Pac-12!"
Amanda Augustus, Head Women's Tennis Coach, University of California
"Raquel is a fantastic choice to lead WSU Women's Tennis! Her work ethic and passion for the game are palpable, and she'll bring outstanding character to the program. Not many players or coaches have her level of playing experience, and she'll develop every one of her players with the goal of reaching their maximum potential on and off the court."
Kathy Rinaldi, United States Tennis Association National Coach, Women's Tennis
"I am thrilled for Washington State Women's Tennis on the hiring of Raquel Atawo. I have known Raquel since we were competitors in college and had the chance over the years to admire the hard work she put in on WTA Tour to become a top ten doubles player. As a (very) proud alum, I'm excited for her to bring that work ethic along with her tennis experience and knowledge to Pullman and to see her mentor the next generation of Cougar Women's Tennis student-athletes. Go Cougs!"
Erica Perkins Jasper, WSU Athletics Tennis Hall of Famer and former Chief Operating Officer, Intercollegiate Tennis Association
"The Washington State Women's Tennis team is fortunate to have Raquel Atawo as its new head coach. Raquel's dedication, professionalism and work ethic will create an environment in which players will succeed both on and off the court."
Megan Moulton-Levy, Board of Directors, United States Tennis Association