May 18, 2011
| We hope you have enjoyed www.gostanford.com's Countdown To The Championships, with daily coverage leading up to the 2011 NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships in the form of feature stories, historical profiles, match previews, recaps and other tournament news. One of the nation's finest tennis venues, the Taube Family Tennis Center is playing host to its second combined men's and women's NCAA Tennis Championships, as the tournament's current format was introduced at Stanford in 2006.
In today's final edition of Countdown To The Championships, it's time to spotlight senior Hilary Barte, as we learn about the one of the nation's elite players on and off the court.
| "I'm very happy to be playing in our own time zone this year. The Stanford courts at Taube Family Tennis Center have been nice to us in the past, and Dick Gould has put so much time and energy into the facility. It's a very comfortable surrounding for us and we're really anxious to try and prove that we belong there in the final 16. This is our time of the year, and this is what we are building towards."
USC men's tennis head coach Peter Smith, who has guided the Trojans to back-to-back national championships. USC is this year's No. 2 overall seed in the draw behind No. 1 Virginia.
STANFORD, Calif.- For tennis, Stanford's Hilary Barte sacrificed her senior year in high school to figure out if, at 18 years old, she was ready to go pro. She began independent study and spent that final year focusing on tennis, as well as traveling the world.
There came a moment, though, during the six weeks she spent training in Germany when going pro was not all that she wanted to do. While Barte was hard at work, her friends were attending prom, graduating and celebrating the reality of going to college.
"Sitting alone in a hotel room, I just remember thinking: is this really the life that I want," said Barte who enters the postseason ranked No. 3 nationally in both singles and doubles. "And at that age and at that time, the answer was definitely no."
A month after this realization, Barte played as an amateur in the U.S. Open and soon after decided that, for a future beyond tennis, her following four years would be best spent at Stanford.
"I do enjoy the individual essence in tennis but I actually love the team aspect of it in the college setting," Barte said. "Since it's a team sport, it is more enjoyable to be playing for something more than yourself. At the same time I think it brings more out of you where you have to depend on yourself and be more independent."
Barte's life with tennis began at six years old when her father saw tennis as a sport that could be played for a lifetime. While both parents were not athletes, they stressed the opportunity for fun and release present in being athletic. All three siblings took up tennis recreationally but Barte, the youngest, turned the hobby into something serious.
"Her game is different," said Lele Forood, Stanford's Peter and Helen Bing Director of Women's Tennis. "She uses a lot of different spins and different types of shots to be effective. She's not just a robot slamming flat ground strokes to both sides. A combination of all those things make her able to compete against taller players."
Being small in stature, Barte deems her size an advantage.
At Harvard-Westlake High School, Barte lettered for four seasons and became a four-time team MVP and All-American. The fiery lefty won the 2006 CIF Southern Section Singles Championship and was one of the top-ranked juniors recruited by colleges everywhere.
"I think [my size] plays into their psyche more than my own because I have dealt with it my whole life," said Barte, who stands only 5-5. "For me, it's more of an asset because [other players] don't expect me to be able to handle their power. I've almost developed other skills to make up for not being as big as other girls and I think a lot of those skills are mental."
Her teammates and opponent agree.
"Hilary is such an amazing athlete," said sophomore Mallory Burdette. "I don't care about her size, she is a very strong girl. If you watch the way she works out in the gym, you would be very surprised. Her speed is a huge asset for her, because she can move around the court and cover ground better than players who are bigger or taller. She has a wider variety of shots she hit at any given time because she is in better position."
"Hilary is such a great competitor," stated USC's Maria Sanchez, ranked No. 2 in the country and one of Barte's biggest rivals during the Pac-10 season. Like several of the nation's top-10 players, the 5-10 Sanchez uses her size as an advantage. "Despite her size, she is very talented so it makes her a tough opponent. I think she's pretty crafty and can do a lot of different things on the court."
Growing up with a close family dynamic--where dinners are always spent together--has inspired Barte to make the most of the opportunities given. Both her parents, after finishing medical school in the Philippines, immigrated to America and built a home in Chatsworth, Calif.
Her sense of culture, though, thrives because her family takes many family trips back to Leyte Island, the homeland that exposes her to the past lives of her parents. Barte can even understand the native Cebuano dialect of Bisaya. All this awareness adds to the appreciation she has for the sacrifices her parents made for their family.
"[Through challenges] I learn about my own determination," Barte said. "It's easy to get really disappointed and get down on yourself but my family has helped me keep perspective on everything and really have a positive attitude by trying to find the good in things."
Barte, who led Stanford to an NCAA Championship last year, aims to defend the title at home playing inside Taube Family Tennis Stadium over the next few days. A three-time All-American in singles and doubles, Barte has been ranked in the top-10 nationally for her entire collegiate career. When she was a freshman, she was awarded the ITA National Rookie of the Year and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. The following season, Barte was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year.
"For me, it was slightly intimidating at first playing with Hilary," said Burdette, who together with Barte rank No. 3 in doubles. "She is a great player who won last year's national doubles championship with Lindsay (Burdette, Mallory's older sister) and at times I felt like I needed to step up my game in order to play with her. But recently we've talked about a lot of ways we can improve and that has led to improvements in our game as a team."
Tennis has kept Barte always within its reach and this relationship will continue when she goes pro after graduation. Beyond tennis, though, other dreams move forward as well. Barte will get her degree in international relations next month and plans on becoming a doctor after her professional tennis career.
"In tennis, I love the challenges within each point and within each match," Barte said. "There's always an obstacle to overcome or a problem to solve."
by Estela Marie Lactao Go, Athletics Communications/Media Relations. Special thanks to Brian Risso.