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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Deanne Choo on balancing academics and international tennis

Choo was a three-time national doubles champion in Singapore

<p>Tennis player Deanne Choo hails from Singapore.</p>

Tennis player Deanne Choo hails from Singapore.

Deanne Choo’s path from Singapore to the Bulls’ tennis team wasn’t the most straightforward.

Before deciding to come to UB, Choo was a three-time national doubles champion and a two-time national singles runner-up, and she ranked as one of the top 250 junior players in the world.

She represented her home country at the Junior Billie Jean Cup qualifiers, and she participated in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Future Stars, where girls tennis players from 26 different countries attend training camps. 

Most tennis players of that caliber seriously train their whole lives, and dedicate all of their time to the sport. 

Choo didn’t start training seriously until 15. 

“Back home, the Singapore education system is very demanding, especially for exams. The exams are a lot harder, so I would have to take off from tennis for a month and a half just to study,” Choo, a sophomore member of the women’s tennis team, said. “It was very hard to excel at both without stopping one at least for a little bit.”

Choo was able to balance her studies and playing tennis, but the sport always felt like more of a hobby. She didn’t think about tennis as a career until she made the decision to be homeschooled. 

“My mom gave me the option to do homeschooling earlier, but I went full-time and started playing tennis a lot later than most international people would have,” Choo said. “I went to a winter camp in China. My mom brought me, and was like, ‘This is what it will be like if you want to go full-time and take tennis seriously, and maybe go to college in the U.S.’”

Although Choo wasn’t always set on pursuing collegiate-level athletics, she’s played tennis from a young age. Her family has a long history in the sport. Her uncle represented Singapore on the international stage, and Choo’s brother and uncles are still active players. Her other family members are no strangers to it. 

“I actually only played tennis because of my mom’s side of the family,” Choo said. “Everyone plays tennis, so that’s how I got into it.”

Even the members of her family who didn’t play pushed Choo to pursue the sport, but she credits her dad as one of her biggest supporters. 

“He has been so supportive throughout the whole thing,” Choo said. “He would pick me up and come to almost all of my games, come watch my practices.” 

Outside of the strong support from her family, Choo was close with her teammates in Singapore and vividly remembers the moments she won her national titles. 

“My teammates and I were so pumped when we won,” Choo said. “After, we went to get dinner together as a team, and my parents were super happy. My dad took off from work to come and support me. It was really nice.” 

Choo enjoyed being with her team in Singapore, but having recently completed her second season at UB, she admitted that she feels closer to her collegiate team. 

“It’s definitely comparable, but it’s nothing like coming to UB and the team here that we have,” Choo said. “I feel like this is the closest I’ve ever been with a team before. Especially because I live with them, and I spend most of my time with them.” 

That team dynamic was part of what made Choo choose to play for the Bulls. She couldn’t visit UB because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the testimonials of her future coaches and teammates convinced her that UB was the right choice. 

“Ultimately, the girls and the coach both said how our team is very much like a family,” Choo said. “A lot of them are international, so we can all relate to one another a lot more.” 

The familial nature of the team isn’t an exaggeration. Choo refers to her two female coaches as the team’s “mothers.” But with four newcomers next season and multiple players graduating, she says they’ll have to work hard to keep the team’s relationship close. 

“I love the team culture that we have,” Choo said. “I’m hoping with my other seniors to instill that in our freshmen coming in, to keep that close-knit team and not let it stray away from that family aspect.” 

Choo believes that the team’s togetherness has allowed her to grow as both a player and person, and she feels more confident in the potential leadership role that she’ll take on as one of the team’s more experienced players next season. 

“I feel like I was able to be a bit more vocal in terms of taking the wheel in charge, and stuff like voicing my own opinion as well,” Choo said. “I learned to take my time, really work together, and communicate with my [doubles] partner, rather than just listening and taking advice from one.” 

The team environment has produced some memorable moments as well. One of Choo’s favorite memories of the season was the team’s first Mid-American Conference (MAC) game against Bowling Green on March 15, when her teammate bounced back to win an important match. 

“We were all so nervous, but we were screaming our lungs out,” Choo said. “I’m pretty sure I almost passed out from screaming.” 

With two years of experience now under her belt, Choo’s goal moving forward is to translate the team’s togetherness into success on the court.

“My goal for the team is that we [continue to] build a culture of being very supportive of one another,” Choo said. “I’m hoping that the energy of being a family will bring us together to win the MAC championship.”

Henry Daley is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at henry.daley@ubspectrum.com  


HENRY DALEY
henry-daley.jpg

Henry Daley is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. His work has featured on other platforms such as Medium and Last Word on Sports. Outside of the newspaper, he enjoys running and watching sports (when he’s not writing about them). 

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