Pratt looks to Northwestern to continue tennis career


Winning wildcat: Returning a serve (left) and getting set to serve (right), Northwestern commit Sydney Pratt prepares to continue her success on the tennis court. Pratt’s tennis prowess drew Northwestern University’s attention, ultimately resulting in a scholarship offer to play for the school’s team on Aug. 28. Courtesy of Sydney Pratt

Annie Rogula, sports editor

Hard work and dedication have allowed junior Sydney Pratt to dominate in the tennis world, according to her coach Mark Bey, director of the championship training academy at the Glenview Tennis Club. Since age 6, she has dedicated her time and energy solely to this sport and, according to, she is now ranked 53rd in the nation and 6th in Illinois. After years of being focused on achieving success, Pratt received a phone call from Claire Pollard, Northwestern University women’s tennis head coach, offering her a scholarship to play tennis at NU, and according to Pratt, she verbally committed to NU on Aug. 28.

Initially, Pratt’s interest in the sport sparked from the influence of her father, Tom Pratt, who introduced her to the sport at age 4. As a tennis player himself, Tom thought it would be a fun activity for him and his daughter to begin playing together as a way to build their relationship.

“I’ve loved tennis since I was a kid, and when Sydney was young I thought it would be a fun sport we could play together,” Tom said. “So when she was around four I bought her a small racket and we would hit together.”

As she got older, what started out as fun and games quickly became a more serious endeavor. A simple childhood game between a dad and his daughter became an open door into the world of competitive tennis.

“Sydney started playing competitively in some small club tournaments when she was seven, and she started playing in more competitive regional tournaments when she was eight,” Tom said.

As Sydney’s tennis career began to take off, it was important that she was prepared to make sacrifices in her own life, according to Tom. Since Sydney had to dedicate her time to hours of practices and tournaments, Sydney’s life outside of tennis would be considerably affected. Activities like social events and school-related opportunities would become secondary to the sport which she has decided to pursue, Sydney stated.

“I had to miss some social events or stuff that I really wish I could’ve gone to,” Sydney explained. “I missed out on opportunities for schoolwork, too, because I had to skip homework some days to practice. I also would have to study while I was out of town at a tournament.”

In order to become an athlete at Sydney’s level, it takes at least seven to nine years, according to Bey, yet Sydney has accelerated this process. According to Sydney, she has put in a lot of effort in order to get to where she is now. She’s taken hours of private lessons from Bey in addition to group classes four times a week.

“Sydney trains six days a week on the court with two to three hours of fitness in addition,” Bey said. “She competes in tournaments generally twice a month.”

However, her love and dedication to the game have allowed her to progress this far, Sydney stated. Since there is always something to improve on, Sydney emphasize  it keeps things interesting.

“I like that there is always something that you can get better at and I like the mental side of it because I stay pretty calm when I play matches [which] I think helps me a lot,” Sydney said.

Although Sydney had a later start compared to her competitors and, in the earlier stages of her tennis career, would often lose matches as a result, she was able to overcome this challenge and maintain a positive mindset, according to Tom.

“Sydney handled adversity rather well all year and in particular at the US nationals in San Diego last summer,” Bey said. “With many eyes on her and expectations high, she lost her first-round at nationals being a seeded/favored player. Sydney managed the pain of that loss and came out in the consolation bracket and won 6 consecutive matches and the sportsmanship award over 447 other young women. [It was] a truly amazing feat [which] has been pivotal in her early commitment to play for Northwestern University.”

Although Sydney enjoys playing tennis full-time, it has prevented her from playing on the girls’ tennis team at South. With a rigorous tennis and homework schedule, Sydney stated that playing a high school sport on top of all the work she is already doing would make things too difficult.

“Playing for the high school team would take a lot of time away from the training with my coach and doing fitness,” Sydney said. “I just thought that it would be really hard to balance a tournament schedule and homework schedule while also playing a high school sport.”

Still undecided about what she wants to accomplish in her tennis career after college, Sydney is focusing on looking forward to participating on the team at NU for now.

“At Northwestern I hope that I can balance the sports and academics and continue to be super competitive,” Sydney said. “Tennis is definitely going to be a huge part of college.”