Aug. 13, 2011
By Marcus Dittmer
On July 20, 2010, Yellow Jacket women’s tennis standout Irina Falconi announced her intention to pursue a professional career.
One year later, Falconi will tell you there certainly has been a learning curve.
“The amount of consistency that is on the Tour compared to college is very different,” Falconi said. “The women on tour are just training so much more than a collegiate athlete is able to train. They hit it harder and they hit it more times than not over the net.”
Since turning pro, Falconi has consistently been on the move, in more ways than one.
When Sting Daily was able to catch up with her she was headed to the Washington D.C. metro area. Followed by trips to Vancouver, Toronto, Cincinnati, Dallas, New York City, Quebec City, South Korea, China, Japan, Beijing, and Austria before finally landing in Luxembourg for a tournament beginning on October 17.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 13 cities in seven countries on three continents over the course of 13 weeks.
So what’s life like on the road?
“I have a lot, a LOT, of electronics and books,” Falconi said.
Another thing that is consistent with Falconi is pressure.
Pressure knowing that she must play well in order to pay for all that travel – although she admits to racking up some major frequent flyer miles – and her next tournament.
“Having that constant bit of pressure is always good,” Falconi remarked.
The last major piece of consistency Falconi told Sting Daily about is her goals, which she has reached a number of.
For starters on the list of goals, qualify for all four grand slams.
Falconi qualified for the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., barely a month after turning pro. She followed that up by qualifying for the Australian Open in January in Melbourne, Australia, the French Open in Paris in June, and Wimbledon in London in July.
“It was great to qualify for all four,” Falconi said. “It was something that I definitely have to give myself a little bit of credit for. It’s not easy to do, especially with today’s competition. Being able to come out rookie year, it was amazing. It was a great accomplishment, and one of those things that I was able to check off my goal list.”
She continued her streak by qualifying for the 2011 U.S. Open August 29 through September 11 at UST A Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
When she qualified for the 2010 U.S. Open, Falconi was ranked No. 385 in the world. When she spoke with Sting Daily recently, she was ranked No. 102.
“Last year after the U.S. Open and near the end of the year, my goal was to be main draw U.S. Open and have 680 points, which is right around No. 100,” Falconi said. “When the rankings came out two days ago, I had 683 points. That was really cool. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish from no ranking to main draw in the U.S. Open, was just kind of like `check’.”
Falconi and her coach, former Tech volunteer assistant Jeff Wilson, divide the year into four quarters and make goals for each quarter that are realistic and attainable.
So what was one of the goals for the third quarter of 2011?
“I would say win a Tour event. That would be huge.”
Falconi, who had just finished three weeks of training, must’ve known she had something to show on the court.
That trip to the Citi Open in the Washington D.C. metro area, it finished with a trip to her first semifinal of a Tour event, before falling to eventual champion and world No. 32 ranked Nadia Petrova in three sets, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
That strong showing boosted Falconi from No. 102 to 81. In the latest rankings August 8, she is up to No. 77.
“By the end of next year, I want to be ranked in the top 75. Right now, I’m right at 102, it’s really great to be at that, and it’s a matter of maintaining and getting better otherwise you could fall off the grid. Next year, if by the end of the year, if I’m top 75, that’d be a great accomplishment.
“Obviously, I’d love to be top 50 in the world, 20, 10, No. 1 in the world. If you just take it slow and put all things in perspective, that’s a good goal. People who know tennis know that’s a good goal.”
If the goals Falconi has set and reached in her first year on Tour are any indication, she has certainly gotten a grip on that learning curve. And I’d be sure to watch for big things and continued success from her.