Carol Zhao (Richmond Hill, Ont.) is currently attending Stanford University, where she recently finished her sophomore season ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division I tennis after advancing to the final of the NCAA Championships in May. Zhao made her first WTA main draw debut at the 2012 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and has accumulated three wins over Top 100 players. In 2013, she was the Tennis Canada Outstanding Junior Female Player of the Year.
Zhao is currently competing for Team Canada at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Tennis Canada had a chance to catch up with Zhao’s parents to hear about her journey and their advice for parents of aspiring tennis stars with dreams of competing in the NCAA and for their country.
Tennis Canada (TC): What does it mean for you to see Carol playing here at the Pan Am Games representing her country?
Zhao Parents: For us as parents, we are very excited to be a part of Team Canada and watch Carol play here at home. Carol plays college tennis, pro tennis, and has participated a few times in the Rogers Cup here. She is not unfamiliar with this atmosphere, so she is definitely comfortable playing here.
TC: How did you as a family go about making the decision for Carol to attend Stanford and play NCAA tennis?
It was important for us as parents to find the correct position during this entire process of Carol’s development. We did not want to ever interfere too much in her decision to go to Stanford. The decision making process itself is a long one, so a lot of thought and consideration went into it for Carol. At the initial stages, you have to do a lot of research on the schools in which you are interested. She has always loved school as well as tennis, so for her, the decision to do both and play for Stanford ultimately was not that difficult.
TC: Where did you go for advice during this process?
We got information from friends, fellow players, and Tennis Canada. As time passed, we learned about the options for Carol and had a lot of support along the way from Tennis Canada. We also paid a visit to the schools Carol was most interested in.
TC: How difficult was it for Carol to keep up with her education given her commitment to tennis?
That’s the most difficult part of a player’s whole career early on. Switching back and forth between the court and the classroom setting is difficult for most students. Parents need to understand their kids and figure out what they need to be supported.
TC: What advice do you have for other Canadian parents whose kids are hoping to follow in Carol’s footsteps and play NCAA tennis?
As parents, we should not throw our own dreams into a child’s journey to force them to do anything. We personally have never interfered that much in Carol’s development. Instead, we have just provided any support that we could along the way.