#TGW: Routine Journey

Sept. 23, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

It will not exactly be a foreign concept when Georgia Tech freshman Johnnise Renaud travels this week to California to play some tennis, even thought she is just a freshman.

A trip to Los Angeles, where play begins Saturday in the Riviera ITA All-American, might seem to you like it would be a big deal for players who have just graduated from the high school level, but that is not the case for these student-athletes.

Tech’s freshmen tennis players, particularly Renaud, Paige Hourigan and Alexis Prokopuik, have traveled plenty while playing the juniors tennis circuits, including much time spent overseas.

Renaud is from Miami, Hourigan from New Zealand, and Prokupuik from British Columbia. They’ve all been around.

“Most of our girls coming have all played internationally so they’ve seen the best players in the world at their age,” explained head coach Rodney Harmon. “When Paige goes on the road from New Zealand, she goes for eight weeks at a time. She can’t go back and forth. It’s two-and-a-half months you’re gone.

“Johnnise went to Morocco and South Africa. I remember two summers ago Alexis was in Europe for what must have been eight weeks with Team Canada.”

For these girls, a college travel slate including fall trips to Athens (Ga.), Tuscaloosa, Ala., and New York, and spring journeys to Tuscaloosa, Charlottesville, Va., Athens, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Durham, N.C., Clemson, Pittsburgh and Syracuse before the postseason pales by comparison.

For them, last week’s season-opening Georgia Tech Invitational was the foreign concept – a competition from which they could walk home afterward. The same will be true next month when the ITA Southeast Regionals are held at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex, and for several dual matches in the spring.

That was not the case when Renaud played last year out of the Bill Adams Tennis Academy in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

“I was traveling a lot, like maybe 30 weeks [a year],” Renaud said. “My passport is ridiculous. Toward the end of the year, we had a three-hour drive to Bradenton, and then we used to have a tournament in Miami.

“Those were two tournaments that were like `home’ for me. The travel schedule is not so hectic here.”

The Riviera ITA will run Saturday through Oct. 5, although players will go to the event at different times rather than travel as a unified squad, and nobody will be in California for that entire time.

That would not be a stretch for some of the Jackets, however, including upper classmen who have traveled quite a bit as well.

“My point is they become pretty wise,” Harmon said. “They have to do things for themselves. They’ve experienced the world, they have had to be responsible for themselves in training and more.

“I think what college does for them is it broadens their horizons, and they get to meet other people in and out of tennis. They get to do other things as well.”

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