CHARLESTON, S.C. - Success has continued to find CSU alumnus Alexandra (AJ) Walters as the Adelaide, Australia native has continued to excel at a high level on the professional tennis circuit.
After finishing the 2015 season achieving international rankings in both singles (1,229) and doubles (1,241), Walters has taken her play to new heights in the 2016 season on her way to career-high rankings. She currently is ranked 899 in singles and 886 in doubles play.
Walters wrapped up a storied career in the Charleston Southern women's tennis program in 2014, finishing her senior year winning the Singles Flight No. 3 Championship after going a perfect 9-0 in Big South Conference play for the second consecutive season. Walters also earned Big South All-Conference First Team singles and First Team doubles honors in leading Charleston Southern to their third regular season Big South Conference Championship in program history.
For her career, the two-time team captain on the squad posted career records including more than 85 combined singles and doubles victories during her time with the team. Among her various awards and recognitions include earning 2013 Big South Singles Flight No. 4 championship honors and 2013 Big South Doubles Flight No. 2 honors. She was also the 2012 Big South Flight No. 5 Champion and was a member of the 2012 Big South All-Academic team.
Walters communicated with the CSU Sports Information staff over Thanksgiving weekend, talking about her ranking and her success over the past year.
How much has changed in the past year?
It's been a great 12 months and a lot has changed since we last spoke. I had a great summer training block with my new coaches Todd Langman and Mike Howard. We changed my training to involve more on court fitness as well as changed my mindset to be a more aggressive player; taking the ball earlier and creating my own opportunities. This mindset is very important if I am to progress further up the rankings.
This year, your ranking has continued to improve with career-high rankings of 860 in singles (October 10) and 863 in doubles (March 10). What would you attribute to your rise in the rankings?
The year started with some $25,000 events around Australia and I struggled against the higher ranked players from Asia. I then headed to Egypt and the first few weeks struggled to find form. My fourth week there I had a four-hour match that I won 7-6 in the third after doubting myself on more than one occasion during the match. The week following I had one of my best-ever wins against a much higher ranked Serbian. It's great how much a bit of momentum, self-belief mixed with a ton of hard work can do.
Traveling worldwide to your tournaments, what have been some of your favorite places to visit in the past year?
I had some good tournaments in Azerbaijan and Mauritius as well, and I have to say Mauritius is by far my most favorite place. It is usually for honeymoon goers, so it was quite funny flying there surrounded by loved up couples when I was there with my tennis racquets. This was by far by the favorite tournament for the year, not just the location but it was run by multiple grand slam champion Mary Pierce who is one of the strongest advocates for women's tennis around the world.
One of my coaches (Mike Howard) came on my last trip with me; to Romania, Slovakia, and Austria. This was great for my tennis because the European clay (which I had not spent much time on previously) helped to develop my game further. I then had some good results in Israel when I returned to hardcourt.
All this travel on the road, what do you do with your downtime? Had an opportunity to get back home to spend time with your family?
Over the past five months, I was only home for around three weeks so it's definitely been a very rewarding but quite draining year. There has not been much down time though since I have been training in Melbourne at the National Tennis Center with Fed Cup coach Nicole Pratt and some of Australia's top female players. I'm off to New Zealand next week for what looks like will by my final tournament of the year, so I will be able to spend Christmas and the New Year with family and friends at home. Since it's approaching summer here I'm looking forward to some solid days down at the beach.
Have you been able to keep in touch with your CSU network/former teammates?
I have most definitely been keeping in touch with Coach Baker, the girls and other friends at CSU. I really do miss it and am forever thankful for Coach Baker and my time at CSU, but I am enjoying life on the professional tour and I am very much looking forward to the 2017 season. My doubles partner Yvonne (Hubler) is planning a visit to Australia next year so it will be amazing to see her, and of course, I hope to cross paths with my other old teammates really soon as well. My tournament schedule has not been organized as yet but I am hoping for a trip to the US over summer for the hardcourt tour.
What keeps your love for tennis going?
That's a good question because I would not be able to do this without absolutely loving the game. The thing about playing an individual sport like tennis is you have complete control over your own success, and in fact, failure as well. I do live for the pressure situations, where it's just you and your opponent, as well as the wins over much higher-ranked opponents that show that the hard work is paying off. For me, I have always dreamed of playing at Wimbledon and this is what keeps me focused and determined.
Anything you want to say to all of us back here at CSU?
I would like to congratulate the football guys and everyone at the CSU athletic department; what a great back-to-back season…and of course, GO BUCS!
Follow AJ Walters' career as she closes out the 2016 season through her profile on ITFTennis.com. (Click Here for her profile)