This was not the way Katrina Scott dreamed her first US Open victory would play out; no fans cheering her name, no autograph requests, meeting with members of the nation’s tennis media via Zoom in an empty room wearing a masking.
But the 16-year-old from Woodland Hills will take it any day as the USTA wild card Scott on Tuesday upended Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 7-6 (3), 6-2, to book her spot in the second round and a guaranteed $100,000 in prize money. Not a bad day at the office, indeed, for a player currently ranked No. 637 in the world.
As soon as her match ended, Scott’s focus turned to that second-round date, which happens to be against No. 22 seed American Amanda Anisimova, who turned 19 on Monday and, like Scott, also turned professional at age 15 back in 2017. (Note: Scott captured the first set against her Team USA counterpart on Thursday before Anisimova found her rhythm and emerged victorious.)
“It is amazing; a dream come true,” Scott told those who logged onto her post-match Zoom media conference after her match. “I’m going to put this one behind me and look forward to the next one.”
She added not having fans plays to her advantage. “I think there are positives and negatives,” she said. “I kind of miss that factor, but it’s kind of easier because you’re not playing in front of thousands of fans and there aren’t the nerves that come with that. I do think it helps my situation.”
She added: “I just tuned everything out and focused on what I could control, and it worked out.”
Scott is well aware she’s not a household name. Not yet, anyway. Fellow 2004-born players friends Coco Gauff and Robin Montgomery both suffered tough defeats in their first rounds on Monday.
Members of the press on Tuesday wanted to know more about Scott, who said she grew up wanting to be professional figure skater.
Regarded as one of the best Class of 2004 tennis players in the world – and No. 1 atop TennisRecruiting.com’s most sought after college recruits in the nation – Scott made the bold decision to turn professional 11 months ago following last year’s US Open.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Small doubts began to creep into her mind after she returned back to Southern California and classes at her dream-school UCLA had started. It wasn’t until an Oracle Pro Series Futures event in Malibu a few weeks after the Open when Scott sat down with tennis agent Meilen Tu that Scott finally realized she had made the right decision and would go on to sign with Tu for future representation and all of her off-court business dealings.
And why not. Like Scott, TopNotch Management’s Tu was a junior tennis prodigy, who grew up in Tarzana just a minutes from where Scott lived. In 1994, Tu won the US Open Junior Girls’ singles title, decided against college, and also made the decision to turn professional enjoying a solid career that saw her reach a world-ranking high of No. 35 in 2007.
“Ever since I was a little kid watching Venus and Serena (Williams), I wanted to turn pro and that was the goal,” said Scott, who turned 16 in June. “I signed pretty early but I think when I met Meilen, I knew TopNotch was the way to go and we knew it would work out. It really has been a perfect match.”
Scott moved full-time to Columbus, Ohio, last December to train at the David Kass Academy. She has relied on the help of the USTA over the years, and although she is not with them full-time she appreciates all they have done for her young pro career, especially granting the coveted US Open Wild Card.
On Tuesday Scott said she has rubbed shoulders will all the star’s of the game since arriving in New York last week. She was most impressed with ATP player Stefanos Tsitsipas. “He’s so tall, I couldn’t believe it was really him,” said Scott, who idolized the Williams sisters growing up.
“When I was super young I was always watching them on T.V.,” Scott said. “It’s crazy now that I’m playing right alongside them. Just all the Americans, Sloane and Maddy (Madison Keys). I’ve looked up to all of them since I started playing. I haven’t talked to Serena, but I’ve been around her. I’ve met Sloane and she’s just super kind and I was like 11 and I was just in awe. They’ve all been just super nice and welcoming to me.”
When Scott entered the court on Thursday for her second-round match against Anisimova, she wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. It’s a cause that is important to her as her father David is African-American originally from Detroit. “I’ve been wearing it around everywhere and I support Naomi (Osaka) and everything that Black Lives Matter represents,” said Scott.
There are no fans, and no media at this year’s US Open. But Scott doesn’t care. Winning in New York on tennis’ grandest stage is all the matters now. And she is fully aware of that fact and the impact it will have on her future.
Steve Pratt's columns appear weekly at USTAsocal.com.