After a strong freshman season, sophomore Emily Hahn played singles and doubles on the Ivy League Champion women’s tennis team. Her sport is commonly known as one of the most “mental” games. While the Tigers certainly put a lot of time into their strokes, serves and positioning, preparing a winning mindset has been a focus this year. We at the ‘Prince’ had an opportunity to sit down with Hahn to discuss the dynamics of her team.
The Daily Princetonian: Where are you from, and what’s it like there?
Emily Hahn: I’m from Richmond, Va. I’ve lived there my whole life, so I have a lot of good friends there.
DP: What’s your concentration here?
DP: What’s been the best class you’ve taken at Princeton?
EH: ENG 345, with Jeff Nunokawa. 19th Century Fiction. I liked his lectures a lot. He was always very interesting.
DP: From that class or any other, what’s been your favorite book that you’ve read here?
EH: Probably Jane Eyre, in 19th Century Fiction. I had never actually read it. So I got a chance to and then write a paper about it. It was one of my favorite books.
DP: Could you talk a little about any notable pre-match rituals you or your teammates have?
EH: At the start of Ivies, we wore this all-black outfit. After we won that match, we continued to wear it throughout all seven matches. We had to do a lot of laundry. But I think it worked.
DP: What’s your favorite thing about playing tennis at Princeton?
EH: I think probably the team aspect. Before, in junior tennis, it’s very individually focused. Coming here, you’re able to be on a team and play for your teammates as opposed to just for yourself. When you win a match, it’s great to help your team. But then if you lose, and your team wins, it’s still a great feeling.
DP: What’s your least favorite thing about being a student-athlete?
EH: I’d say the time commitment. Having practice late, and then having to do work after practice; it’s difficult because you’re so tired.
DP: What sport other than tennis would you play here?
EH: Soccer. I played soccer until I was probably 16. And then I decided to just pursue tennis.
DP: What has been the proudest moment of your career?
EH: Definitely winning Ivies. I did not expect that we would win my sophomore year. It was, just … the best feeling ever.
DP: Did any professional tennis players inspire you while you were growing up?
EH: I actually don’t watch a ton of tennis. So I was never a huge fan of one certain player. I think if I had to choose one, it would be Kim Clijsters. She’s retired now, but she was just such a great competitor. Her presence on court had a lot of impact.
DP: Could you talk a little bit about what preparation you guys put in on the mental side of the game?
EH: After every match, we always go into the team room. We start with one doubles and then we go through every doubles match. Each player discusses how their match went — what they did well, what they didn’t do well. Then we go through the singles lineup as well. Whoever’s not playing in the lineup will make comments about what they saw and what we can improve on. We didn’t do that last year. I think that this year, that really helped us.
DP: Could you talk about the different mindset you have going into a doubles as opposed to a singles match?
EH: It’s very different. In doubles, you feel a lot more pressure because you have a partner. I think that we approach them both completely differently. Doubles is very team-oriented. You want to be able to pump up your partner and give her confidence. In singles, you just focus on yourself and what you need to do to win the match.
DP: Could you talk about how your team has built an atmosphere of support for your players?
EH: I think that what we do really well is that we do a lot of things off the court. We hang out a lot. We go to a lot of meals together. I think that really helps us bond because, especially this year, we learned that having a good connection with your teammates is important. Because everything shows on the court.
DP: Who is the quirkiest member of the team?
EH: Definitely (freshman) Dorothy Tang. We call her D-Tang. Every Ivy match, our coach buys a box of chocolates. And Dorothy eats them literally on the court, when she’s playing. It’s for energy. And it works. I don’t think she’s lost a match.