Angelica Blake discusses transitioning from college to professional tennis

Rising star Angelica Blake discusses her future as a professional tennis player

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Angelica Blake discusses transitioning from college to professional tennis
© Angelica BlakeĀ© Stanford University Athletics

Stanford University top women’s singles player and 2024 Pac-12 Player of the Year, Angelica Blake, kindly granted an interview to Tennis World USA, in which she touched on many topics: from her final season with the Cardinal to making the transition into professional tennis. Blake climbed to No. 14 in the ITA ranking this season before finishing her collegiate career ranked No. 25. Her most impressive win came this past May in an incredible straight set upset over the ITA No.2 player, North Carolina State’s Amelia Rajecki.

Angelica, born in Abington, Pennsylvania, grew up living back and forth between the US and England. Today she continues to split her time between the two countries. With Stanford, she has achieved incredible results throughout her 5 year academic and athletic career, at all stages: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Graduate (here you can read all her milestones with Stanford). In the interview, Angelica spoke in depth about balancing the life of an athlete with academic goals while revealing her sources of inspiration and sharing ambitions for her post-Stanford future.

You had a very positive year with Stanford; how would you rate your 2024?

"It is difficult to rate my 2024 season at Stanford on a scale, but I think it was very positive. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of college tennis and know our cohesiveness made us such a strong team."

What was the most important and most disappointing moment of the season, both on a personal and team point of view?

"The most important moment for me during season was defeating NC State in the round of 16 of NCAA’s. It was so special because it was the last match at Taube Tennis Stadium, which is being torn down and renovated, this summer. There have been so many amazing matches, moments, and players in the stadium, so for us to beat the team that defeated us the previous year in the semifinals of NCAA’s in the last match ever in the stadium is a moment I will always cherish. The most disappointing moment was losing to Georgia in the quarterfinals. We were coming off of such a good win against NC State and felt very confident going into the next round but, for some reason, we couldn’t quite get the energy going that was needed to beat a quality team like Georgia. There was a lot of wear and tear from so many tough matches played throughout the season that we were quite tired towards the end of the tournament. The conditions were quite tough for our team being that it was very humid and windy, in Oklahoma, while the courts played slow, so it wasn’t easy competing somewhere we weren’t quite acclimated to and already not feeling our best. It was disappointing because we take such confidence in each other and really believed we could win the tournament, but in hindsight these are the moments that make our team stronger and everything happens for a reason."

Angelica Blake
Angelica Blake© Angelica Blake© Stanford University Athletics
 

What are the difficulties in pursuing a sporting career alongside an academic career?

"Finding the balance between academics and athletics requires such a fundamental understanding of discipline and time management, especially at a university like Stanford. As someone who wants to go professional, it is imperative to work extremely hard on court and in the gym because you are not only trying to be better for your team, but also for yourself as you know tennis only gets tougher going forward. College is such a unique opportunity because you have so many resources available to you such as amenities like a gym, a trainer, coaches, a training center for injury prevention and recovery, and advisors so it’s essential for student-athletes to capitalize on the opportunities available and use them to propel them into phenomenal athletes. In terms of academics, you can learn so much at a university like Stanford. The knowledge you learn is so valuable and can help in so many aspects, including the qualities that make a strong champion and leader which translates to a professional career. Finding the balance between capitalizing on amazing academics and athletics is so important."

Stanford has a glorious sporting and academic tradition; what will your college years leave you with?

"College has helped me mature in so many ways. It’s taught me how to prioritize academics and athletics in a way that I didn’t prior to college. My freshman year I wasn’t maximizing my abilities as an athlete. I didn’t always work as hard as I could. I learned that if you are not giving your full effort then there is no point in playing. Over the years, I became much more disciplined and focused on the court and in the gym. I improved so much as a player and became such a better athlete. I felt faster on the court and it was because of my hard work. I worked really hard in my academics and learned so much from my studies. I’m so grateful for going to Stanford also because of the people I’ve met. I’ve made so many incredible friends and learned so much from meeting so many people from diverse backgrounds which have really shaped my experience. I’m so grateful for my coaches, teammates, friends, professors, trainers, advisors, and mentors."

Angelica Blake
Angelica Blake© Stanford University Athletics
 

Like many of your colleagues, you are now faced with a choice: pursue a tennis career or an academic career. Do you already have a plan A and a plan B?

"I plan on pursuing a professional career. I feel like I have been improving whilst at Stanford, so I really want to give myself the opportunity to compete at the professional level. It’s such a unique experience and I really want to go for it and enjoy the process. I have a Political Science degree with a focus in pre-law, so I plan on attending law school after playing professionally."

What are the tennis skills that you want to work on, if you'd like to approach a professional career?

"I’ve unfortunately struggled with some injuries in my right shoulder which have hindered my ability to really go after my serve. I think that’s the most important component of tennis, so I really want to work on improving my serve now that my shoulder is healing. I like to play aggressively on top of the baseline and take the ball early and come forward when I can, so I think having a really strong serve will accentuate the other parts of my game so I hope to improve that during my career."

Angelica Blake
Angelica Blake© Stanford University Athletics
 

American women's tennis is undergoing a positive generational change: apart from Coco Gauff, who do you think are the young players who will be able to aspire to important results in the coming months?

"American’s women’s tennis is so strong right now. It’s really nice to see college players making a seamless transition to the professional tour. Players like Emma Navarro and Peyton Stearns show how much the level in college tennis has improved and inspire those in college to pursue a professional tennis career."

Who are your sources of inspiration, in tennis and in everyday life?

"My inspiration in my everyday life is my mom. I aspire to be like her in so many ways. She’s such an incredible person. There have been so many amazing tennis players that have inspired me. My favorite players growing up were Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters. I loved how they were so calm, cool, and collected yet so tenacious, gritty, and focused. They were so respectful on and off the court and I really try to emulate that."

Roger Federer and Angelica Blake
Roger Federer and Angelica Blake© Angelica Blake
 

Managing pressure, expectations and mental health: how do you approach these issues in college tennis?

"Managing pressure and expectations in college tennis is not an easy task, but it is important to realize pressure is only an issue if you give it that ability. I really try to focus on the things I can control so I don’t worry about pressure. As long as I’m working hard and doing the best I can, that is all that matters. Rankings, seedings, and opponents do not matter if you are present in the moment and focused on what you can do to be the best player you can be. That’s the mindset my team and I like to have going into our matches."

Who really is Angelica Blake and what does she want to achieve in her life and career?

"I want to be someone who has a positive impact on people on and off the court by inspiring people to have the confidence to go for it in every aspect of their lives whether that’s in sports, academics, or in a work career. I want people to see me as someone who is humble and respectful and works hard for everything. I want to help people in any capacity I can, and I hope I can do that by inspiring people to be focused and never lose sight of the values that are so important."

Angelica Blake with Stanford teammate Chidimma Okpara
Angelica Blake with Stanford teammate Chidimma Okpara© Stanford University Athletics
 

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