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“At this point, tennis will always be a part of my life and I think that is really one of the beauties of a sport like tennis,” said Rancho Santa Fe tennis star Coco Vandeweghe. Courtesy photo/WTA
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Catching up with Rancho Santa Fe tennis star Coco Vandeweghe

RANCHO SANTA FE — Professional tennis player Colleen “Coco” Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe has a message for young girls who might want to follow in her footsteps: follow your dreams.

“I want to say to young women and girls to always believe in their self and always be yourself,” she said. “Keep working hard and you can achieve your dreams. There are always going to be up and downs in life, but you have to keep pushing and no one can stop you.” Vandeweghe is currently ranked No. 102, as of Oct. 31, 2018.

The 27-year-old Vandeweghe, who at her highest ranking was No. 9 (Jan. 15, 2018), is named after her grandmother Colleen.

“Coco was the name that her brothers used to call her when they were teasing her,” she said.

Coco Vandeweghe. Courtesy photo/WTA

Famous family

Vandeweghe, no stranger to sports fame, comes from a family of athletes — mostly basketball players with recognizable names.

She is the daughter of 1976 Olympic swimmer Tauna Vandeweghe and her then-husband Robert Mullarkey. Her maternal grandparents are 1952 Miss America Colleen Kay Hutchins and ex-New York Knicks basketball player Ernie Vandeweghe. Her uncle, and her mother’s brother, is basketball player Kiki VanDeWeghe,  and her grandmother’s brother was NBA player Mel Hutchins.

Vandeweghe first started playing tennis with her elder brother, Beau, when she was 11, but the sport wasn’t her first choice. In fact, it was her last after trying basketball.

As for tennis she has been playing professionally since 2008 and plays right-handed (two-handed backhand). To date and according to stats she has won $7,132,168 in prize money and her career record is 281-226 (55.42 percent). She holds four career titles: two World Tennis Association at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships in Den Bosch, and two International Tennis Federation.

Additionally, she’s a former Junior US Open champion. Vandeweghe reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2015 and 2017 and won the WTA Hertogenbosch.

In 2017, she earned two Grand Slam semifinals and the final of the WTA Elite Trophy to move up to a career-high ranking of No. 9.

She recently said she’s had a rough 2018 due to an injury; however, she’s ready to start 2019 with “a clean new slate,” and said her tennis career has been a learning experience.

“I’ve battled injuries and have had some amazing accomplishments so far,” she said. “Tennis players turn professional at a very young age and get thrown out into the world on their own and each player matures and develops on their own.”

However, she hopes that her career is just beginning and that good moments are ahead.

“In 2017, I had an amazing year and this last year I battled injuries but still had some amazing moments such as winning the 2018 US Open Doubles Title with Ash Barty my first Grand Slam win,” she said.

As mentioned, she comes from a long list of family members who played basketball and she said most people assumed she’d head in that direction.

“Naturally given my family history with basketball, I think most people always assumed I would take up basketball,” she said. “I also tested out volleyball, which my mom and older brother both played at a very high level. But for me tennis was the sport that I feel in love with. I stumbled on a court when I was a child because I was doing what most younger siblings do and that is follow around your older siblings.

Coco comes from a long line of elite athletes, including her father, Ernest Maurice “Kiki” Vandeweghe, who is currently the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. Screenshot via Youtube

“My brother had tennis lessons and I copied everything he did so that is how I got hooked on tennis,” she said.

And even though basketball runs in the family she is currently only concentrating on a career in tennis.

“For now, I am only thinking about tennis,” she said. “I think being an athlete, you always must have a long-term view on things but for now my focus is on being a tennis player and being the best possible person off the court as I can be. I think it’s important to always give back to communities and be a role model for kids. I remember as a child watching some of my favorite athletes on TV and I always try to emulate those and be the best role model I can be.”

As for being a professional tennis player she said it is a “blessing and a curse,” and the most difficult aspect is the travel.

And travel she has done — all over the world to compete. But her greatest accomplishment has been winning the Fed Cup Championship for the U.S., representing the U.S. in the Olympics and winning the US Open Doubles Title in 2018.

Of course, being a professional sports figure, she also must train and that is pretty much nonstop all year long.

“The tennis season is very long and goes for about 10 months (January to October),” she said. “I train out of San Diego. Depending on where I have breaks, I may do some training weeks in London with my coach, Pat Cash.”

She has her favorites when it comes to tennis players and said her childhood favorite tennis player was Lindsay Davenport.

“I feel like I grew up watching the golden era of women’s tennis in America with so many great champions,” she said.

RSF home away from home

Growing up in Rancho Santa Fe was “awesome,” said the California girl.

“I love San Diego and I would describe myself as a California girl, I love the beach and relaxing with my friends,” she said. “The food in San Diego is some of the best in the world but to be honest being a professional tennis player you never get to spend much time at home so when I am there, I relish all my time.

“I wish I could spend more time at home, but I’ll have plenty of time to hang out at home when I am finished playing but that won’t be for a long time!” she said.

Vandeweghe didn’t attend college and doesn’t have a degree, but it is something that she has thought about pursing after tennis is over.

“Most professional tennis players do not go to college because they turn professional at a younger age which makes them ineligible to play in the NCAA,” she said.

Will tennis always be a part of her life?

“At this point, tennis will always be a part of my life and I think that is really one of the beauties of a sport like tennis,” she said. “It is truly a lifetime sport; I don’t think there will be any time of my life where I don’t get out on the court at least once a week to get a hit in.

“After I am done playing, I am not sure in what capacity I will remain in tennis, but I will always love tennis and I hope as long as I can play I will,” she said.

Staying physically fit isn’t too difficult for her since she has an “amazing support team around me who make sure I stay in shape and I am ready 24/7.”

She trains at EXOS in San Diego, she said.

“ … they are the best at what they do. I follow a strict diet when I am playing and must always make sure I’m properly hydrated and ready to compete, “she said.

When she’s not on the tennis courts or competing in a tournament she loves coming home to San Diego and spending time.

“Whenever I have down time, you can either find me at the beach in San Diego or on the golf course. I have two dogs which I love and spending time with them always turns a bad day into a good one.

“I love hanging with friends that I don’t get to see too often and just relaxing. When you travel as much as I do, downtime at home is something that I do not take for granted,” she said.