In honor of National Girls and Women in Sport Day, the ITA is featuring some of the outstanding women who make up college tennis.
UCLA sophomore Abbey Forbes is already a force to be reckoned with in college tennis. Heading into the 2021 season, Forbes is ranked No. 7 in the nation and a regular contender for national championships. However, Forbes is not only making an impact on the court for the Bruins. She is focused on creating community within college tennis and supporting BIPOC and female athletes. In 2020, Forbes founded the Black Tennis Student-Athlete Alliance to create a safe space for Black tennis players.
ITA | You’ve experienced great success already in your tennis career – from winning doubles at the 2019 Junior Wimbledon to competing at the US Open – how have those experiences affected the expectations you have for yourself?
Honestly, it hasn’t necessarily changed my expectations, it’s just given me more confidence and belief in myself. I knew that I had worked hard all my life to get to where I am today, and those two tournaments were like icing on the cake.
ITA | You have said that tennis has taught you mindfulness and to attack point by point. How has tennis prepared you to tackle issues in your life outside of the sport?
Tennis has taught me that life is precious and life doesn’t always go your way. You could have a perfect game plan and go into a tennis match and things could go completely wrong, and I believe that this applies to life off of the tennis court as well. It has also taught me to be a go-getter, be more independent and take care of myself, and just fight to stay in the present moment as much as possible and enjoy every second of it.
ITA | Female athletes often are subjected to claims that they are not as talented or weaker than their male counterparts. How have you learned to be confident in your athletic ability?
Obviously there are great men that have played the sport, but women have shown that we are more than capable of playing the sport, doing it well, and doing it better than some of our male counterparts. It shouldn’t be about men versus women, or who is better, women should receive the credit we deserve for the amount of hard work that we put in on and off the court. My parents have always told me my self-worth, and that hard work can get me a long way, and that has given me confidence in myself.
ITA | How has competing on a team and being coached by Coach Sampras-Webster helped you grow as a female athlete?
it’s definitely been great being coached by Stella, and having a female role model to look up to during my time here at UCLA.
ITA | Representation matters. Who are some women that have inspired you to play tennis and sports in general?
Some top inspirations in the women’s tennis world for me are the Williams sisters. They paved the way for Black girls like me to play this sport the way we do.
ITA | You recently founded the Black Tennis Student-Athlete Alliance. What made you want to make a change in Black representation in college tennis?
After the events that happened this summer, with the social unrest and racial injustice, I wanted to give Black tennis players a space to speak about it openly and freely. We shouldn’t have to hide our stories just because it makes people uncomfortable, so I created a community so that we can talk about these things with people who understand.
ITA | As a Black female athlete, what unique challenges did you face growing up in tennis?
Growing up, I definitely faced a lot of racism being a Black girl in a predominantly white sport, white neighborhood, etc. I believe that tennis was the great equalizer for me though. Nobody could take away my tennis game no matter what I looked like, which I have always been really grateful for.
ITA | You’re playing at the top level of college tennis. Now that you’ve made it to this point – how are you looking to help others like yourself reach the collegiate level?
I’m looking to reach out to young juniors whenever I can. I’ve started in my hometown, and I’ve definitely reached out to anyone who has asked me questions about college tennis, junior tennis, or my journey in general. I definitely had some great mentors growing up, and I definitely want to pay it forward.
ITA | What are your plans for the future in tennis?
Right now I just want to play at the highest level of tennis that I can play, and honestly, I’m just really grateful to have a season at all. The ITA has worked so hard to make the season a safe environment for us all, and all of the schools have worked hard to follow protocols and keep everybody safe. I’m really thankful that tennis is a social distancing sport, and I’m super happy to be back out on the court with my teammates.
ITA | What advice would you give to young girls considering playing a sport?
I would tell young girls who want to play sports that you can do whatever you want to do, as long as you put your mind to it. Believing in yourself can be hard at times, but you never know what you can do if you don’t try. Dream as big as you can, and don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars!