Why This HAT Alum Chose Pro Tennis Over College
This week we had the pleasure of chatting with Karen Barritza. Karen is a professional tennis player and lives in Denmark. She met Ryan Segelke (HAT Founder) while at a tennis tournament, where she learned about High Altitude Tennis and came to train at the HAT facilities for a few months a couple of years ago. She shared her tennis journey with us as well as some tips for aspiring professional tennis players.
Karen first started playing tennis when she was six years-old. She grew up a few hours away from Copenhagen, but ended up moving closer to the city when she was 11 years-old to be closer to the national tennis training facility. Because of her success early on, Karen was able to play for the federation as a teen and competed in the Junior Grand Slam at the Australian Open and French Open beginning when she was 16 years-old. She moved on to earn a spot on the world rankings and has been ranked as high as the top 400 in the world!
Karen currently plays in ITF tournaments throughout Europe. She explained to us the difference between ITF and WTA tournaments. With ITF tournaments, Karen is able to travel closer to home throughout Europe, and can often play many tournaments in one place. WTA tournaments are often farther away and they switch locations often, however, the prize money and the number of points an individual can acquire at these tournaments is often larger than those that are acquired at ITF tournaments.
Karen decided to become a professional player rather than choosing to play on a college team, though she did receive offers. She explained that she made the choice because she was gaining momentum and was worried that stepping out of the world rankings for four years could make it difficult to regain traction. She is so thankful to have had the opportunity to make the choice between playing on a college team and choosing to focus on professional tournament play, and she is happy with the choice that she made.
Karen shared with us some additional tips and insights on being a professional tennis player:
Karen’s favorite part of being a pro player is when “everything comes together” - when all of the hard work and practice results in a great game. She also loves training and being active. While training 4-5 hours a day can be challenging at times, it is great to have an active lifestyle!
The most difficult part of her job is having an “off day.” She explained that an off day can result in a loss that leads to having to find a flight home. It is also a very competitive environment where it's difficult to build true relationships. Additionally, it requires a lot of flexibility to play so many opponents with a different style of game each day of a tournament.
Her advice to young athletes: “Love the game. Work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed.” If you aspire to go on tour, make sure to make a plan for financial support, but do not let money or greed blind you. Remember you are doing what you are doing for love of the game.
Karen’s favorite players are Caroline Wozniacki, who trained at the same facility as Karen for a while, as well as Simona Halip. Karen is also grateful for the entire HAT community and for the inspiration and support she received there.
We are so thankful for Karen’s wisdom and can’t wait to follow her tournament play in the coming months and years!