Liang Stepping Up Her Game
Special to TennisCanada.com, by David Li
After capturing the 16 and under Orange Bowl title last December and the Inka Bowl title in February, it’s evident that Gloria Liang has stepped up her game. Although the Mississauga, Ontario native has come a long way from her humble beginnings at Ontario Racquet Club, coached by Andrea Rabzak, there’s a lot further to go in order to reach her ultimate goals on the tennis courts.
“I was introduced to tennis by my dad when I was six,” Liang reminisced. “We started out just hitting against the wall in our basement.”
It wasn’t long before young Gloria and her dad, William Liang, transitioned from their basement to the public tennis courts just minutes from their Mississauga home.
“As I grew up, I believed that my game had potential,” she said. “But I just needed to have more experience.”
By the age of 15, her potential was well recognized; and to help Liang gain that experience, Tennis Canada offered her a spot to train at the National Training Centre (NTC) in Montreal, Quebec.
Although it appeared to be a great opportunity, Liang admits to having some initial reservations.
“In the beginning, I didn’t want to leave my family and friends; I was used to my routine back home,” she said. “But I came to Montreal and got to speak to the coaches; and decided coming here was the best thing.
“Everything is very organized here,” added Liang about the program started in 2007 by Tennis Canada to help the country’s top juniors reach their full potential. “And it’s very professional environment.”
In her short time since joining, Liang has enjoyed breakthrough success on the tennis courts.
Referring to it as her breakthrough victory, she captured the prestigious U16 Orange Bowl title last December.
“I was so happy…..It was just an amazing feeling to win that tournament,” she recalled. “My parents and my sister were really happy for me and so were my friends back home.”
Someone else who was happy about Liang’s big victory was Caledon, Ontario native and NTC teammate, Erin Routliffe.
“When Glo won, I was super excited for her,” said the 2011 U16 Orange Bowl champion. “I know that she always works hard, and the win was awesome for her.”
“Winning Orange Bowl gets you a lot of attention,” Routliffe added about the tournament that is widely regarded as the most important outside of the junior grand slams. “And she really deserved it.”
Liang agrees with Routliffe about the importance of winning the U16 Orange Bowl.
“Definitely everything has changed since that tournament,” she said. “It’s given me so much more confidence.
“It’s also great to have Canadians win it two years in a row,” Liang added.
The talented Canadian junior, who describes herself as offensive minded on the tennis courts, is quick to point out that one of the biggest advantages of the NTC program comes from having the opportunity to compete internationally.
“When I was training in Mississauga, I played against top junior players in Ontario and Canada,” she said. “But now, I get the chance to compete against the best in the world…… That’s a great experience and really important for my development.”
Former NTC teammate, Eugenie Bouchard, agrees with Liang on the importance of playing in top tier international tournaments.
“It gives us a chance to compete against the top juniors around the world,” said the 2012 junior girls’ Wimbledon champion. “To be the best you have to be able to play against the best.”
Having recently captured the Inka Bowl title in Peru, Liang says it’s starting to sink in that she is capable of not only competing but winning against the top junior girls in the world.
“I was playing against some of the older girls in the top 100; players that I didn’t think I could beat before,” said Liang about the Inka Bowl. “Winning that tournament meant a lot.”
Liang adds that it also means a lot to see Bouchard’s success on the WTA, which she says is inspiring and gives her extra motivation.
“It’s awesome knowing that I’ve trained alongside with her,” said Liang. “Seeing that she can do it, gives me confidence that I can do it also.”
Someone else Liang respects and admires is 2013 Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka.
“I like how she is an all court player,” she said about the 23-year-old Belarusian tennis star. “She just seems so determined and fights very hard on the court at all times.”
With the ultimate goal of one day competing at the highest level herself, the thoughtful 16-year-old believes her participation in the NTC has placed her in an environment that will prepare her well for the journey ahead.
“I think playing tennis professionally and to compete against the world's best requires a lot of hard work and determination,” said Liang. “I think if I surround myself with the right people who want the same things as I do, it becomes a little easier to get there.”