Trying to Be the Best in The U.S. at 15-years-old

In Learn, Tennis
By Alex Flanagan | May 16, 2016

Two years ago, Nicole Mossmer was burnt out on playing club soccer, so she quit and picked up a tennis racket. She quickly broke into the top 10 in the USTA Girls 16’s last summer and this May the 15-year- old was one of 12 tennis players in the country invited to participate in the Team USA tryouts held at the USTA site in Boca Raton, Florida on clay courts. Six young women made the team that will travel to international tournaments and an opportunity for the Jr Grand Slam events this summer. Nicole wrote a daily journal for ILTWYP during her week in Florida to give us an idea of what being an elite tennis player is like from a teenager’s point of view.

May 1, 2016

Today was the day before playoff. We all flew in the night before and got settled in our hotel. We had practice for two hours this morning on the clay. The USTA coaches ran it and they had us each hit with another girl that we would not play during the tournament. We did lots of drills focused on sliding and movement on the clay. It is super hot and humid in Florida right now so the practice felt like it was forever! During the practice we all tried to figure out who we could be playing based off of who was hitting with each other. Then we had a meeting with all of the players, parents and coaches where the USTA explained the draw and what was at stake with the tournament. When I saw my draw I was so surprised to see that three out of the four of the girls in my “bracket” were from San Diego! After the meeting my mom and I went to dinner and then went to rest.

May 2, 2016

I woke up at around 8:15 this morning and ran downstairs to meet my friends at breakfast. I was super excited and nervous for my match! I warmed up before my match for about 45 minutes. When we got on court I was so nervous I felt almost frozen on the court. I wanted to start out this tournament with a win! I cruised through the first set 6-2, but I still felt pretty nervous. The second set I went down 2-0 right away and lost 6-4. Before the third set started I took a bathroom break to get myself together. I tried not to think about how hot or how tired I was. I just told myself to focus on my game plan. When I got back on court, I won the third set 6-2. I was so relieved when I won.


May 3, 2016

I was particularly nervous for my match today. I was playing a girl I knew very well and I knew that if I won this match I would be guaranteed a spot into the final rounds of the playoff. I warmed up this morning with one of my best friends and did my best to stay as loose as possible. This time when my match came around I tried to be more focused and believe in myself. I knew that this match would be much harder than my first one. I won the first set 6-3 with no problems. In the second set I led most of the way up until the end where she came back and won it 6-4. I was devastated. I was dead tired; almost all of the matches had finished and for the second day in a row I was going to be the last match out here! The third set was an absolute dogfight. Every game went to deuce and we both played some of our best … And sometimes our worst … Tennis! Every point was a long rally that usually ended in one of us making a mistake because we were just so tired. At 6-6 in the third set we went to a tiebreak. I was down 6-4 in the tiebreak. She had two match points. Losing was the absolute last thing I wanted. We had been playing for over four and a half hours. At that point I think I just felt like I had nothing to lose so I swung freely and saved both match points at the net. At 6-6 I was so relieved I had saved the two match points that I made a silly error that caused her to go up 7-6! At this point I was cramping and I could barely move. I went to serve and my thigh completely tightened up. After a long point I was able to get my first match point. I felt a total surge of confidence and I won my match point. I couldn’t believe that I had won. We were by far the last match done and I had saved three match points. I was so happy but I could barely move! Lots of Gatorade and water tonight!

May 4, 2016

Today was the last day of bracket play. I was feeling a little more relaxed  because I was playing a top seed in my bracket. I started my match and won the first set 7-5. Then just as I was about to start the second set it started pouring rain! We all ran straight indoors. When we got inside we were all asking and telling each other what the scores were in our matches. The coaches told us the matches were canceled for the day but that also meant we would have to start our matches at 8 am the next day.

May 5, 2016 
My celebration of Cinco De Mayo started at 6 am when I ordered a ham and cheese omelet with a side of salsa. Warmup was at 7am and matches at 8am. I lost my first match in three sets. I still moved on in my bracket. I had to win just one more match to qualify for the team! My match started at 1:00 and by that time the wind was howling!! I lost, finishing around 3:00pm. Of the eight girls left, the four that won qualified for the team. The rest of us got to play again tomorrow at 8 am for a chance to play for the last spot on the team.
May 6, 2016
I ended up having to play the same girl three days in a row. I had played her in my bracket and because of the rain delay I had to play her again the day after. It was really weird today because there were only 4 of us left. My match lasted three and a half hours and I lost 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
It was such a tight match and even though it wasn’t the result I wanted I played well. My opponent ended up  qualifying for the team. We were all completely exhausted  and the week was a long one! It was such a unique opportunity though to get to play the best 16 girls in the nation for my age!

Nicole (on the right)

As I look back, it was great to be able to play and compare myself against the best in the nation. I was really close but I realized that as of right now I’m not the very top. I also learned that even though clay was a surface that I wasn’t familiar on it suited my game very well. I’m excited to get back to work and come back even better.

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