Sept. 22, 2009
by Kristy Rivero, OSR Contributing Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA — When Melanie Oudin shocked the world and made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, there was one person who wasn’t surprised.
Georgia Tech freshman Elizabeth Kilborn played Oudin at Olde Town Athletic Club as a 9-year-old. She played her again a few years later and remembers it vividly.
“The last time I played her I was 13, she was 12, and she beat me pretty bad. She turned pro three or four years later,” Kilborn said. “People come up and ask me ‘do you know who Melanie is?’ I’m so excited for her.”
Kilborn might not be as well known as Oudin, but she’s already had a great deal of success.
In four years at Marietta’s Walton High, the team won four state titles and went 116-0. She played doubles her first two seasons, with her older sister Katie as a sophomore, and went undefeated. She moved to singles her junior year and lost just two matches. She rebounded her senior season to play number one singles and go undefeated again.
Perhaps it’s no surprise she went 2-1 in singles, and 2-0 in doubles this weekend in her first college action, in the Georgia Tech Invitational.
In addition to her high school team, Kilborn also trained with the team at Olde Town, traveling to junior tournaments across the nation.
“For me, the more competitive part of tennis was the tournaments I traveled to and obviously I never went undefeated for all those,” she said. “High school was fun to just be part of a team and learn how to be a leader and stuff like that, but the competition wasn’t as big as nationals so I definitely know it’s going to be a lot tougher (at Tech).”
The Jackets opened the fall season Sept. 25 hosting their own tournament with high expectations.
They’ve made five straight trips to the Sweet 16 at the NCAA Tournament, won the school’s first national title in 2007, and finished last spring ranked No. 8 in the country.
Kilborn made recruiting visits to Virginia and North Carolina before taking a look at Tech. It went so well at Tech that she cancelled a visit to Georgia.
“I met with coach [Bryan] Shelton in early July right when the recruiting process started. Me and my mom came down and met with him,” she remembered. “We were expecting a little 30 minute meeting and it turned into two-and-a-half hours and [when] we left we were both speechless. We were blown away by the program and everything sounded like just what I was looking for.
“And then I came on my recruiting visit and met all the girls on the team and that sealed the deal for me.”
Shelton has had no shortage of talented players and teams over the years. He coached Amanda McDowell to an NCAA singles title in 2008. The addition of Kilborn has him excited.
“Elizabeth is a very talented and disciplined young lady,” says Shelton. “She has shown more maturity than any freshman we have had at Georgia Tech. She has a solid foundation and plays an aggressive all-court game. She already possesses a very big serve and is a great ball striker. We are working on her specific footwork for different shots as well as overall positioning and also recovery.
“She will be a serious threat in singles and doubles. I see Elizabeth becoming a phenomenal college player and will make an immediate impact on our team this season.”
With these kinds of expectations, what does the future hold for Kilborn? Is there a pro career waiting four years from now?
“I’m going to see how college goes,” says Kilborn. “I have high goals here first, but I’d love to play some after if the opportunity is there.”