Tennis champion Janie Ellis started swinging a racket at age 4 with her father, Jim.
“I will never forget how he taught me to play in the street in front of our house,” the Clovis West High School junior said.
Ellis will always remember other things, too.
Earlier in November, she won a second consecutive Central Section singles title to crown a perfect 29-0 season.
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“I’m super excited and blessed,” Ellis said. “I’m very happy with the way I performed this season.”
The Independent caught up with Ellis after she won her title in Bakersfield.
In the following interview, she talked about the just-completed season and what comes next.
Question: You breezed through the championship tournament this year, going 6-0, 6-1 in the final match. Last year, you had to come from behind to win in the finals. Did you learn anything from the first championship that helped this year?
Answer: “Last year, I won in a very close three-set match, 2-6, 6-1, 6-1. I learned from last season that you have to go into the tournament with confidence and not think about the pressure. The experience last year definitely helped this year because I knew what to expect and how hard I needed to work and focus in order to win.”
Question: How much pressure did you feel as the defending champion?
Answer: “I felt a lot of pressure because everyone expected and relied on me to win. I think I put the most pressure on myself because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I turned to my parents [Jim and Anne] and two coaches [Neil Castro and Nick Castro], who did a very good job of keeping me calm, focused and positive. My parents told me to stay relaxed, only think about one match at a time and, most importantly, to just enjoy myself out there.”
Question: How did you celebrate winning the championship?
Answer: “I celebrated with some of my teammates and went out to dinner on my way home. The best part was I took the next day off from tennis to just relax.”
Question: A few days before the singles championship tournament, Clovis West lost in an upset to Buchanan High School in the semifinals of the team championship. Did the team loss affect you in any way?
Answer: “It was a very disappointing team loss, but I tried to not let it get to me. I wanted to go out there and win it not only for myself, but for my teammates as well.”
Question: If someone talks about your senior year and speaks of a “three-peat” (winning three singles titles in a row), how do you react?
Answer: “A ‘three-peat’ would be awesome, and it’s definitely a goal I have. I am going to continue to work hard and see what happens next season.”
Question: What’s your tennis background?
Answer: “I played in my first tournament when I was 8. I played other sports while growing up [volleyball, basketball, softball and dance], but I always loved tennis the most. Playing tennis has been a blessing in my life and has brought me closer to so many people. I play competitive tennis year round for the United States Tennis Association and travel mostly around Northern California for tournaments.”
Question: Colleges must be contacting you about coming to play for them. Where would you like to play? Do you think about playing professionally?
Answer: “A few colleges have shown interest in me so I’m hoping to figure out where I can play in the next year or so. I would like to stay in California to continue my education and play tennis, hopefully at a Division 1 school. A dream college would be UC Santa Barbara because I love the area. Playing professional tennis would be awesome, but I don’t think the pro tour is in the future for me. I’m focusing on playing college tennis right now.”
Question: What professional tennis player do you admire?
Answer: “My favorite tennis player has always been Maria Sharapova. I have always admired her composure and offensive game. I like the way she carries herself on the court and her passion for the sport.”
Question: Away from the court, how do you relax and have fun?
Answer: “Tennis takes up most of my time, but I don’t mind. Off the court, I love hanging out with friends and family. I am out of town most weekends at tournaments, but I love being at home on my weekends off and just hanging out and relaxing.”