ITA Player Profile: Catching up with Lauren Embree
University of Florida’s Lauren Embree finished a stellar collegiate career in spring 2013, and she finished her senior season as the No. 1 player in the ITA National Division I Singles Rankings. She was also named the ITA Senior Player of the Year, becoming the first female player since 2006 to win the award after being named the ITA Rookie of the Year earlier in their career. She concluded her four-year career in Gainesville with a staggering 117-16 singles record, including a 26-3 mark during the 2012-13 season, placing her 12th on Florida’s all-time career wins list. Embree also earned ITA All-America honors for singles this season, making her a five-time ITA All-American (four singles, one doubles).
Since graduating, Lauren has been playing on the pro tour, so the ITA talked to her about what her new life as a full-time tennis player has been like.
What’s the transition been like from college tennis to the pro tour?
I played all summer in fall on the pro tour and it was definitely a transition from me coming from a team that wins a lot and a lot of people caring about you to kind of going out on your own. You’re losing every week – it’s definitely something different but I feel like I got better every month toward the end of the year I was doing better. Unfortunately now I have an injury but when I’m back I’m hoping to pick up where I left off and just continue to get better.
What have some of the surprises been?
You have to enjoy the lifestyle and travelling. And finding like a team or just one person who really supports you and travel with. That was difficult for me because in college you’re used to having things everything handed to you, and getting things done for you. That was all just different for me, but you get used to it and I was enjoying it when I was out there.
Favorite place you’ve travelled to play since college?
It’s more the people I’ve been with that make the trip fun, and not the destination. As long as I have some close friends with me that makes it kind of fun while you’re competing and playing week in and week out.
How’s the life of a full-time athlete been?
In college our team as a whole was pretty strict about eating right and keeping your fitness up, but it’s nice to not have classes and schoolwork and that stress to worry about. You can focus on just one thing and that’s your tennis game and getting better and spending as much time as you need on the court and not having to go to class and worry about when you can practice. It’s really nice to just focus on tennis.
You recently had surgery – can you talk about what happened and what the prognosis is?
During winter break I was just training and I had a lot of pain in my right hip. I thought it as minor and I was getting ready to play tournaments in January. I was excited to play a full year on tour. I got some more pain and eventually tried to plan on it and couldn’t. I got an MRI and I had a torn labrum in my hip along with some other minor things. I had surgery right away and now I’m on the road to recovery. Hopefully I’ll be back as soon as possible and better than I was before.
What are some of the moments that stand out more for you in your college career?
Definitely the camaraderie of being on a team and having the great coaches and support system at Florida. They always want you to do well and are pushing you to succeed. Obviously winning many championships with those seven girls…it was the best time of my life. I thought I would miss it, I obviously miss it, but now that’s in the past and I’m focused on something else, a new chapter in my life.
Who do you look up to on the tour?
On the men’s side I love Federer, I love Nadal. I love those guys and always root for Federer. On the women’s side I love Kim Clijsters – her attitude on the court. She was also such a nice person off the court – she was my favorite growing up. I also look up to many college players who have been successful on the tour too.
Do you keep in touch with some of the great college players who are recent graduated as well, such as Stanford’s Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs and USC’s Maria Sanchez?
Mallory Burdette is my year and we grew up playing a lot against each other. We’ve had some great battles in college as well. I actually talked to her a couple weeks ago about my surgery because she’s out with surgery now. She’s a great person to keep in contact with and have on your side.
Who could play Roland in a movie?
I don’t know off the top of my head, but Roland is a very calm, chilled person who doesn’t get mad at a lot of things. He’s also very funny and witty.
What’s your favorite shot on the court?
Probably my backhand, or my groundstrokes in general. It’s really what I relied in college to win tennis matches.
The last time I screamed at the TV was...
Sometimes I have Bachelor nights with my friends. We scream at the TV during that.
When I'm off the court you will find me...
The gym – I really like to work out. I also like to lie on the couch and watch TV after a really long day.
Favorite movie of all time...
I really like Bridesmaids.
How old were you when you first started playing tennis, and what got you into it?
My dad played at a pretty high level and my older brother played at Florida State. We’re a tennis family. I started to play when I was five, and started playing competitively when I was 8.
You just started your pro career but it’s still something you want to push for?
Yes, it’s something I have wanted to do for a really long time. I’m really glad I went to school and got that chapter out of my life and now I can focus on the pro tour and hopefully be successful. I’ll be ready to start playing in the summer.