Senior Amanda Fink of Calabasas, Calif., has had a stellar collegiate career while at USC, from being named ITA Rookie of the Year and receiving the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award in 2006, to earning All-American honors in singles and doubles in 2008. Fink, 22, swept the singles and doubles titles at the Pac-10 Championships last month and is scheduled to compete in both singles and doubles at the upcoming NCAA Championships. Currently ranked fifth in doubles and 22nd in singles in the Campbell’s ITA College Tennis Rankings, Fink recently took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for USTA.com.
The top 11 highlights of the week at the PAC 10 Championship include...
USTA.com: You had a great week at the Pac-10 Championships, winning both the singles title and the doubles title with Gabriela Niculescu. What were the highlights?
11. Getting lost finding a restaurant that was about five minutes away from our housing.
10. Taking a bite of the best strawberry shortcake in the entire world.
9. Winning a third-set tiebreaker... I don't think I have ever done that before.
8. Reuniting with USC alums Maureen Diaz and Anita Loyola, who played the Open.
7. Playing in front of a packed crowd both Saturday and Sunday.
6. Staying in housing with an amazing host family and their two dogs.
5. Giving my teammates Leyla and Cristie a huge group hug after winning my singles final.
4. Watching my doubles partner Gabi jump in the air after we won the finals doubles match.
3. Not knowing we won the team Ojai Cup until we finished the doubles match.
2. Seeing both my parents with tears in their eyes after my singles match.
1. And finally, and most awesomely (if that is even an acceptable word), holding that cup over my head!
USTA.com: A few weeks back, you and your team secured USC’s first Pac-10 team title with a big victory over UCLA. How was that experience? Was it even more exciting to clinch an undefeated conference record with a win over the Bruins?
Amanda Fink: Getting to win our conference was definitely one of the coolest things I have been a part of here. Obviously, what made it especially sweet was that it was over our cross-town rival in front of the biggest crowd we have ever drawn for a match.
USTA.com: This winter you traveled to Poitiers, France, to represent the U.S. in the Master’U competition. From the photos, it looked like the players and the coaches had a lot of fun. What were some of the highlights?
Amanda Fink: I really hope that the USTA and ITA continue to send a team to this event. There is nothing like it. You are united with players from all over the world who come together to play this one event. The competition is great, and the memories and people you meet are even greater. The highlights of that tournament included getting to be on a team with amazing players like Kelcy McKenna, Nate Schnugg and Mike Venus. It was also my first time out of the country, so getting to go to France, period, was a highlight, along with eating lots of croissants, trying to pretend I spoke any French at all, spending my birthday competing for my country, and meeting new people.
USTA.com: Was it fun to get to play alongside Kelcy McKenna, who normally is one of your “rivals” in the Pac-10?
Amanda Fink: Definitely. Kelcy is awesome -- such a great player, along with being a fun and wonderful person. It was definitely a change to be on her side instead of the other side of the net, and I loved every minute of it.
USTA.com: This season, you are the lone senior on the team. How has your role evolved? Has it been difficult assuming a leadership role?
Amanda Fink: I never honestly saw myself as much of the leader type. I mean, I work extremely hard, and I do whatever I think is going to be best for my team, but I am by no means the dominant type. So maybe I am a different kind of leader than the norm. That being said, I do think that I have evolved over the trials and tribulations that made up my experiences this year. I told my team that I was going to do everything I could to rise up and perform my best, and I am happy to say that I think I definitely stood up to that challenge and kept my word to everyone.
USTA.com: What is a typical day like for you? Practice schedule, strength and conditioning, classes?
Amanda Fink: So my typical day usually consists of about three hours of class on average, an hour of individual hitting on certain days, a little over two hours of team tennis practice and about an hour of conditioning. I also tend to do a little extra conditioning on my own for more cardio and jump rope work when I feel like I need it.
USTA.com: What’s the best thing about college tennis and about being a Trojan?
Amanda Fink: The best thing about college tennis is when you are fortunate enough to say that your team is your family. The girls on this team are my sisters. They have been through thick and thin with me. Getting to compete with this group and for this group has been an amazing experience. And the best thing about playing college tennis as a Trojan has been the experience of traveling to college and pro tournaments. Everywhere I go, there are Trojan fans who know who I am and flash that victory sign.
USTA.com: You had a great summer playing the USTA Pro Circuit last year, reaching the final of the $50K in Allentown, Pa., and winning the $10K in Atlanta. What did you learn from that experience?
Amanda Fink: I learned that I actually have the ability to compete on the pro circuit. Anyone can think that they may have a chance, but you never really know until you are out there, traveling alone and living the life of a pro. Obviously, that summer was particularly successful, but I learned that I can compete with the best and that I can live that life.
USTA.com: Any aspirations to play professionally once this season is over?
Amanda Fink: Definitely. I will at least try playing for awhile and see how it goes. If I become successful doing what I love for a living, then great, because that really is my goal. I will stay on the tour and play until I can't swing a racquet any more. However, if it doesn't work out, then I will be ready for that, too.
USTA.com: What is your major? What do you hope to do with it once your tennis career is done?
Amanda Fink: My major is psychology. If I do pursue a career with it, I would love to get into sports psychology.
USTA.com: What advice do you have for junior tennis players who want to play in college?
Amanda Fink: Work hard... it pays off. I know it is difficult to work your way to where you want, whether it's to a certain ranking, a scholarship, a career or something else. The great thing about tennis is that there are a million ways to succeed in the sport. You don't have to be the biggest or the most powerful, although that's one way to go about it. You can also win a match or be a great tennis player by being the fastest, the toughest, the bravest, the craftiest or the smartest. Everyone has something special to their game, and if you combine your special talent with hard work, you will end up with a rewarding experience unique to you. Do what you love and work hard at it because, in one way or another, it will get you far.