South Xtra: Despite missing Wimbledon cut, Peters' Riske keeps plugging

PRO TENNIS


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Firmly entrenched as a professional tennis player as she competes in her third year and after five appearances in grand slam events, Alison Riske has found enlightenment when it comes to assessing her game.

The results in a recent six-week trip to Europe weren't what she wanted. Unlike the results she had at four of the previous five grand slams, Riske, a Peters Township native and Peters Township High School alumna, failed to qualify for the main draw at either the French Open or Wimbledon this year.

Unlike it might have in the past, however, Riske isn't letting that get her down on her game.

"If there's one thing I've learned from being in tennis it's just that you have to stay positive and roll with the punches," Riske said last week, the day after she returned to the U.S. from a "business trip" to play tennis in Europe.

"That's something I never did, and it took me to this day to kind of understand that and just be satisfied and keep giving it your best. There's really not much else you can do; just 'We'll see where it goes.'

"At the end of the day, my tennis is there. It's just a matter of bringing it out."

According to the Women's Tennis Association's official website, Riske has climbed as high as No. 104 in the world rankings and has consistently been in the low-100s since soon after turning pro in late 2009.

A foot fracture earlier this year set her back, but Riske still ranked No. 162 in the world as she turns 22.

Three years after forgoing a scholarship to Vanderbilt University to turn pro, Riske is going to start taking online courses from Penn State this fall.

"Just to keep my brain occupied," Riske said with a laugh in her typically bubbly way. "I kind of worry about it turning into mush."

Make no mistake about Riske taking college classes, however. She's committed to her game. Riske recently moved to Boca Raton, Fla., to train full-time at the USTA's official facility.

She had been living in Hilton Head, S.C., where her family has a residence. The Riskes also still keep their home in Peters.

Life as a professional tennis player can mean long days of training, plenty of travel, rubbing elbows with big-name pros and the thrill of competing.

"I've definitely been enjoying the experience," Riske said. "I'm so blessed to be doing it. It's definitely a lot of ups and downs, but there's nothing else in the world like it. It's afforded me so many opportunities and the ability to see cool places and to meet new people. I really, really enjoy it, for sure."

Riske was taking a week to relax with family in Hilton Head upon returning home from her trip to Rolland Garros and Wimbledon, among other places. But then it was back to the grind in Boca Raton, where she said about a half-dozen other female professionals train full-time.

She always has a capable hitting partner, has built-in roommates and is provided a coach every time she takes to the road for a tournament.

"The USTA always has been wonderful to me, and all the coaches are fantastic there," Riske said. "I'm just really fortunate to be able to train there. You're able to stay focused there, that's for sure."

Perhaps sometimes a little TOO focused on tennis.

"It's funny because, honestly, during training weeks when I'm in Boca, I eat and sleep tennis," Riske said. "I'm in bed by 10 -- maybe even 9:30 -- every night. I'm a big laughingstock among the girls. I do absolutely nothing. I can't even go out to dinner, I'm always so tired.

"It's definitely taxing, but it's good for me physically. Basically, it's six-and-a-half hours of work every single day except Sunday and half of Saturdays."

Riske's immediate future plans are to take part in the U.S. Open series of hardcourt tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open in late summer. She will attempt to qualify for the grand slam for the second consecutive year.

Riske also hopes to play more doubles, schedule permitting. As for the future, Riske wants to carry out her career to its fullest potential.

"I definitely have a lot of goals I'd like to reach," she said. "I think first and foremost I just need to keep staying positive and just try to play tennis the right way and stick to how I like to play and stay true to my game.

"I think that's the biggest thing, and I think after that, hopefully things will work themselves out. I think that's just the easy goal to have each day."

Spoken like a pro player who's comfortable in her own skin.

sportsother


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