It’s a dramatic change for Lauren Embree, the college woman’s tennis player of the year, as she begins her professional tennis road.
A month ago Lauren Embree, a Lely graduate, was again leading her Florida tennis team to a possible third NCAA championship in her four years.
The Lady Gators couldn’t pull it off, but Embree finished her career by winning a bucket of awards.
On Sunday she received the 2013 Intercollegiate National College Player of the Year, She picked up the award at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport Rhode Island. Yet, for a player of her caliber, there was no coming out party for turning professional. More a matter of fact.
“Once you are out of college you are considered a pro,” she said.
In the last month Embree has played in a $10,000 qualifier in California and a $50,000 qualifier in New York. In California she lost in the first round. In New York she got to the second round.
She plays in a $50,000 qualifier in Lexington, Ky. this weekend.
The immediate difference for Embree is that she comes first. At Florida she put her team first, while still winning individual honors.
In college, her coach Roland Thornqvist praised Embree for putting the team first.
Calling her one of the greatest four-year collegiate tennis players in history, he said her legend will live on for her leadership on and off the court. Her mark on the program will continue through the players who learned from her example in preparation and training.
Embree said, “I did not look out for myself, I was a teammate first and a good person,” she said. “I loved playing for the team, they were my friends. It is definitely different now, learning how to play for myself. I have to get back into my Juniors mind set.”
And what a USTA Juniors mind set she had. She was ranked No. 1 in singles for 14, 16 and 18-year-olds. At one point she was the top in 16 and 18 at the same time She won three national championships, on hard and clay courts. She played in the USTA Juniors Open and as a qualifier at the French Open.
If she had taken the prize money she won her bank account would stand at $104,534, but she would have had to turn pro.
That was a thought she never pondered. She wanted the college experience and she reveled in the Gators success. The team won NCAA titles in her sophomore and junior years, with Embree always providing the deciding singles victory.
“She wanted to do great in college,” mother Nancy Embree said. “She was disappointed when she lost singles in (this year’s) NCAA,” as the team was upset in the semifinals. “Of course she was disappointed, but it was just a bad day for her. She had many more good days.”
Embree dates another Gator star in basketball player Erik Murphy. He was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft, chosen by the Chicago Bulls.
“It will be kind of difficult with him in Chicago and me playing tennis,” she said. “We support each others’ careers and will see each other when we have a break.”
A resident of Marco Island, Embree doesn’t know where she will call home.
“I am actually trying to figure out how I can stay in Florida somewhere,” she said.
Embree doesn’t have a time line for success.
“I have no set goals,” she said, “I am trying to get better and continue to improve my game and enjoy making the transition to professional tennis in the process.”