The sun just peeking over the Berkeley hills, she tightens her laces and grabs her racquet. It’s 6am and freshman Makenna Thiel is just starting her day with an early tennis training session during the week.
“I play tennis before school, after school, and I have fitness too, and then homework, so I don’t really have a lot of free time,” Thiel said.
From the age of eight, Thiel has been competitively playing national-level tennis. She is ranked No. 3 in Northern California and No. 59 nationally.
“[Thiel] is on the team, she plays matches,” women’s tennis coach Jim Landes said. “But, there’s some weaker teams that we rest her for. But any stronger teams, or tournaments, she plays #1 singles for us.”
Thiel said she doesn’t have much free time, because many of her weekends consist of tournaments. If she doesn’t have a tournament, she sometimes practices with her private coach.
“She’s a great friend, even though she is always busy with tennis, she still makes time to be there,” freshman Bridget Bentley said.
For tournaments, Thiel mostly stays on the west coast, travelling to Southern California, Arizona and Texas. Soon though, she will have to travel to Florida, Thiel said.
“[Thiel] is really committed, and she’s passionate about [tennis] too, and I think even when she loses a match, she picks herself back up and trains harder,” Bentley said.
The hardest part of tennis is the mental game, Thiel said.
“You’re on a court by yourself, with no one to help you out,” Thiel said.
As for her future? Thiel is taking it day by day.
“My short-term goal is to get better so I can do well in future tournaments that coaches will be recruiting at,” Thiel said.
Thiel has the skill to get recruited, Landes said.
“She’s one of the top juniors in Northern California, and she’s also becoming a high-level national player,” Landes said. “I think she will certainly play in college, for a D1 school, and she has a chance, if she keeps it up, to play in the pro tennis tour.”
Thiel said she is not sure if she wants to play in the professional circuit, but is hoping to be recruited by UCLA.
Thiel’s older sister is playing tennis at Harvard University, and Bentley believes she is following in her footsteps.
“I think [her future] will be similar to her sister’s, I think she’s going to go to a really good school for tennis,” Bentley said.
Although only a freshman, Thiel has a big future ahead of her, Landes said.
“She’s the whole package,” Landes said.