College Spotlight: Chelsey Gullickson, University of Georgia

Chelsey Gullickson, an 18-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is the highest-ranked freshman in the ITA Division I pre-season rankings at No. 7. Prior to playing college tennis, Gullickson, a 5-foot, 11-inch righthander, was one of the top junior players in the world, with results that include reaching the round of 16 at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2007. Gullickson is one of the top players on the University of Georgia's No. 6-ranked women's tennis team, which will be in action at the 2009 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championships, Feb. 13-16, at the University of Wisconsin. She recently took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for USTA.com.



Georgia freshman Chelsey Gullickson
© Amanda C. Melton, Georgia Sports Communications

USTA.com: As one of the top-ranked juniors in the class of 2008, you were recruited by a number of top programs.  Why did you select Georgia?

Chelsey Gullickson: I had the opportunity to attend many other colleges, but UGA was always top on my list. I knew right when I stepped on campus that it was the perfect place for me. There are many reason why I picked UGA. It has one of the best tennis facilities in the nation. The tennis team has had great success in the past and has had many successful players come out of Georgia. Another main reason I chose UGA was because of the coaching. Before attending school, I only heard great things about Jeff and Frank.

USTA.com: Did you ever think about going pro right from juniors, or did you always know you wanted to go to college? Was that a hard decision for you to make?

Chelsey Gullickson: Turning pro after juniors was definitely a hard decision that I was faced with. I was always torn between going pro or attending college. I had many opportunities and a lot of experience under my belt before attending college, but I knew that if I attended college, it would help me mature more, improve my tennis game and give me a great education at the same time.

USTA.com: As the highest-ranked freshman in the Jan. 6 ITA National Singles Rankings, your college career is off to a tremendous start.  What were the biggest adjustments you had to make in transitioning from junior tennis to college tennis?

Chelsey Gullickson: One of the biggest adjustments from transitioning from junior tennis to college tennis was being part of a team.  Tennis is an individual sport -- you play for yourself, and you win for yourself. But being part of the University of Georgia’s women’s tennis team has been a great experience for me. I have a great support system behind me, including the team, coaches and trainers. That makes my tennis experience here at UGA even better!

USTA.com: What is a typical day in Athens like for you?

Chelsey Gullickson: Well, if I could use one word to sum up a day in Athens, it would be hectic! I have classes all morning, practice in the afternoon and workouts to follow. Usually at night I will have tutoring or some kind of studying. I always try to make time to hang out with my friends, though. You definitely have to manage your time wisely.

USTA.com: What’s the best thing about being a Georgia Bulldog?

Chelsey Gullickson: The best thing about being a Georgia Bulldog is the Bulldog Nation. You do not only have the support of your teammates, but you have the support of the Athens community. “Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.”

USTA.com: What are your goals for yourself and for your team this season?

Chelsey Gullickson: My main goal is to be top five before NCAA’s and to capture the NCAA title. For my team goal, we are going for the whole thing -- National Indoors, SECs and NCAAs! We have a great opportunity this year, and we are looking forward to accomplishing our goals!

USTA.com: Is it difficult to balance all your classes and schoolwork with your tennis?

Chelsey Gullickson: It is definitely very time consuming, being an athlete and a student at the same time. But here at the University of Georgia we have great academic advisors and great tutors to help us manage our time and our studies. Some weeks consist of three exams and a few papers -- those are never my favorite! Ha ha!

USTA.com: You come from a tremendously athletic family. What was that like growing up? How did you settle on tennis as your sport?

Chelsey Gullickson: Growing up, athletics has always been a big part of my life. My dad [Bill] was a professional baseball player, and my mom played tennis at Western Kentucky. All my brothers and sisters have played different sports at different levels, and they all have been successful. My older sister, Carly, is a professional tennis player. When I was growing up, I always looked up to her for support and advice. She went through all the struggles in junior tennis as I did, and she knew exactly what to tell me through every step in my tennis career as a junior. The reason I chose tennis was because of my mom and my sister. I always have found tennis to be a lot of fun, and I always wanted to follow in my sister’s footsteps.

USTA.com: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Chelsey Gullickson: I love to go to the beach and go shopping. But my favorite thing to do is be around my family back home. I have five other brothers and sisters, and we all have so much fun together!

USTA.com: What players did you look up to growing up? Or pattern your game after?

Chelsey Gullickson: I looked up to my sister, Carly, the most. She went through a lot of struggles and has bounced back from everything and has achieved so much at such a young age. I would always go to the Slams with her, wishing I could play there, also. She would always practice with me and give me advice on my game. She would tell me how to deal with the pressure of winning and losing and tell me to never get too high or too down when I lose.

USTA.com: Tennis players can be a superstitious bunch.  Do you have any superstitions or pre-match routines?

Chelsey Gullickson: Before matches, I like to be around people. It helps me relax and get my nerves out.

USTA.com: What advice do you have for junior tennis players who want to play in college?

Chelsey Gullickson: I would say college tennis is the way to go. It is a great experience for many people. I have met so many awesome people here, and my tennis game keeps on getting better. You have the best of both worlds at college.

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