Lauren Davis left everything she knew in her hometown of Gates Mills, Ohio to pursue her professional tennis dreams in Boca Raton when she was only 16-years-old.
Tennis had been a passion of hers from a young age and she was determined to break into the spotlight.
“I played my first tournament when I was nine years old,” Davis recalled. “I made it to the finals and ended up losing. I still have a picture from that day. I have a big frown on my face and a few tears rolling down my face. I was, and am, super competitive.”
Years later, something happened that would go on to change her career forever. While playing in the 2008 U.S. Open Junior Championship, tennis coach John Evert, brother of retired tennis star Chris Evert, invited her to train on a trial period at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton.
After only a few days of training, Davis knew it was the place for her and just months later, Boca Raton became her new home. It was not an easy transition, but after she settled in, she never looked back.
Her success only continued from there. Many tennis players only dream of making a grand slam, but Davis has been able to play in all four.
“Playing in the grand slams is what every tennis player dreams of, so I’m honored and proud to have done that,” she said. “Now the next step is getting deep in the slams.”
Not to say it has all been easy for Davis. Standing at 5-feet-2 inches, she is well below the average height of the top 10 ranked players in the Women’s Tennis Association. No. 1 ranked Karolina Pliskova is 6-foot-1, while the shortest of the group is 5-foot-6 Simona Halep. Height can often provide an advantage through increased power and bounce when serving the ball, however Davis does not think of that as an obstacle.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m an underdog,” she said. “What I lack in height I make up for with my speed and movement around the court. I use my legs to generate the power and my competitive spirit to win.”
Her ultimate goal is to be one of those top 10 ranked players, but there was a time last year when Davis actually thought about walking away from it all. She decided to hang up the rackets during a six-week sabbatical as she spent some time back in Ohio.
“I took a step away from tennis and tried to see things from a different perspective,” she said. “I was so tired and burnt out at the time that I felt I could take a year or two off. But as weeks went by, I started missing playing more and more. The time away made me realize and appreciate just how much I enjoy playing tennis and how blessed I am to be able to play the sport that I love every single day.”
Davis’ rank had fallen to No. 122, the lowest it had been since her second professional year in 2012, but she aggressively returned to the sport, improving to No. 61 by the end of December. Her success has only continued from there by defeating Ana Konjuh for her first WTA title in January at the ASB Classic.
“God couldn’t have chosen a better first WTA tournament for me to have won,” she said. “Winning the ASB classic in Auckland was an incredible feeling. I fell in love with the city, the people and the tournament. It was an amazing feeling being able to win my first title at one of my favorite tournaments.”
Now with that first title under her belt, currently No. 34 ranked Davis is ready to push for the coveted top 10 spot with an interesting strategy – having fun.
“Enjoying myself on and off the court has been the biggest contributor to my success. When you’re happy off the court, you’ll perform well on the court.”