May 27, 2010
By Jon Cooper
From 2004 through 2007, nobody laid down the law like Kristi Miller.
Now, just two years after graduating, she is preparing to practice it.
Miller, who was a six-time All-American (Georgia Tech’s first), a four-time All-ACC performer (including 2008 Player of the Year), the first Yellow Jacket woman to reach No. 1 in the country in singles, and the only one to graduate with 100 singles and 100 doubles victories, recently earned a Robert W. Woodruff Scholarship to Emory Law School. She begins in August, capping off what promises to be a magical summer, which includes getting married in July.
Ramblinwreck.com was able to slow down Miller, currently Junior Tennis Director at Marietta Country Club in Kennesaw, long enough to talk to her about changing her choice of professional courts, Georgia Tech’s current Queen of the Court Irina Falconi, and the influence of current Tech Head Coach Bryan Shelton.
RAMBLINWRECK.COM: How did you end up going to Emory Law?
Kristi Miller: I knew that I wanted to go to Law school when I was in college. I kind of put that on the side when I played pro for a little while and then, when I decided to stop last March, I decided that the next step for me would be to go to Law school. I had to do all of the applications and then I made my decision in March. I was accepted in the spring and will be in their class of 2013.
RW: How did playing on the pro circuit go?
KM: I was maybe disappointed but it’s just a really tough environment and it’s so competitive. It was definitely a letdown for me after having an amazing college career. I really thrived at Georgia Tech in the team environment, and with the coaches and the support. Going out on my own after college was really difficult and really expensive. There were just a lot of things that made it tough for me to play my best tennis. I played a little bit under a year so I didn’t play for a very long time but it was long enough to know that I gave it a shot and it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.
RW: Do you find it ironic going from the cut-throat world of pro tennis to the cut-throat world of practicing law?
KM: I really love academics and I missed being in school when I was done. I’ve always wanted to go to law school because I feel like there are so many different opportunities and different career paths you can take and to me that’s the most exciting part.
RW: What branch of the law do you intend to follow?
KM: Eventually I might want to be a judge, I’m also interested in educational law. I’m interested in a lot of different things so I’m just trying to keep an open mind and try a lot of different things.
RW: Was it ever feel odd studying at Tech but not being an engineering major?
KM: (laughs) I was a History major and Pre-Law minor. I knew when I started going to Tech that I wasn’t going through the Engineering program but I knew that whatever degree I got would be an amazing degree. When I went for my interview for the Woodruff Scholarship they said, ‘Oh, a History major from Georgia Tech. I didn’t even know they had those.’ (laughs). I loved that it was a small program. I really enjoyed it, I was really close with my professors, they came to my tennis matches and although it doesn’t get as much press as the engineering, architecture and the business schools, I think it’s a great program. Hopefully in the future it will get a little more popular.
RW: Have you continued to follow the Women’s Tennis Team?
KM: I’m still here in Atlanta so I come to the women’s matches quite a bit. Amanda [McDowell] is going to be a bridesmaid in my wedding this summer, so I’m still close with some of the girls on the team and I’m still close with Coach [Bryan Shelton] and his family. I babysit for him sometimes. I keep close tabs on it, watch the live scoring when I can’t go to the matches because of work.
RW: Having reached No. 1 in the nation, what is your impression of Irina Falconi, the nation’s current No. 1?
KM: Irina has all the tools. It’s amazing the confidence she has and the consistency she has because it’s not easy to be at Tech and to be able to win all the time and that’s what she’s done. She just doesn’t lose. It’s incredible. I think that her game has really taken off since playing for Coach [Shelton]. It’s a real testament to the talent that she had coming into college and also Coach’s ability to make you into a better player. It’s so funny just to see how everyone does after their first year. I had my best year my sophomore year, Amanda had her best year her sophomore year and now Irina is having an amazing year her sophomore year. It just shows that when you get comfortable under Coach’s program you really can thrive and do amazing things.
RW: What advice do you have for Falconi heading into the NCAA Tournament?
KM: My sophomore year, I was seeded No. 2 but ranked No. 1 in the country. I remember Coach telling me ‘Just trust in the preparation’ and I think it’s so true. You have to be confident in how you’ve prepared and just go for it. She needs to draw on the success she’s had this season and just be very confident. There’s always butterflies your first round and you want to do so well. I know she will. She has a great shot to win it all.
RW: How would you go about playing her?
KM: I played her a few times in practice when I was still playing pro. I came to hit with the girls. She has so many different tools that it makes her an interesting match. Whenever I was going to play Irina I knew I had to be ready to run and play a long match because she doesn’t give you any easy points. That’s the best thing about her. She’s so smart, she uses the whole court and she can hit the ball hard. She can really serve to any corner and she’s really improved her movement, which is an added benefit for her when it gets hot in Athens. She’s in good shape and has a really good all-around game.
RW: What does it say about Coach Shelton, having coached you to a No. 1, Amanda to a National Championship and now Irina?
KM: It says a lot. If you look at Amanda and myself, when we came in, I think I was top 10 in the country my last year [of high school], I think Amanda was also. But to go from that to No. 1 in college tennis, that’s a big jump. A lot of players in high school and juniors go to college and they don’t have that same success because there are so many talented players. Coach has the ability to help set you apart. I think if you’re willing to work hard he can take you anywhere. That’s why I went to Tech. I trusted him. I trusted that he would make me the best player that I could be and it’s obvious that he can do that with any player, especially with the team this year. They did so well and with some difficult circumstances. He has what it takes to take any player to her goals, to the next level whatever it is – if it’s pro, No. 1 in college, making the lineup after being a walk-on. He’s great.