TEMPE, Ariz. – At her core, Sarah Borwell is a problem-solver.
Following a successful career as a professional tennis player that saw the University of Houston graduate achieve world rankings of No. 65 in doubles and No. 199 in singles, play in all the Grand Slam events and represent Great Britain in the Fed Cup, Borwell launched her company, Tennis Smart, to assist British junior tennis players transition into being student-athletes on American collegiate campuses.
Since 2010, Borwell has helped over 500 individuals not only find the right fit in terms of what institution to attend, but also provided those players with the tools of how to make the move across the pond, and from there, the bigger jump from higher education to the professional work force.
“My parents are both coaches and teachers; we just like to help people,” said Borwell. “The idea of Tennis Smart came to me while I was on the pro tour, and it’s been my passion from the moment I retired.”
Borwell, who was ranked as high as No. 8 in singles and No. 12 in doubles during her career at Houston, credits the college tennis system for transforming her game and made it possible for her to pursue a professional tennis career.
“There are so many opportunities to compete and grow your game,” she said. “The access you have to strength and conditioning, sports psychologists and the wonderful teammates you have around you gave me the confidence to believe in my game. The University of Houston and coach Jen Hyde (now at Florida State) was a perfect platform for me to develop and I’m incredibly thankful to both for helping me fulfill my dreams of going pro.”
Recently, Borwell has decided to tackle another issue facing British tennis players; the lack of accessibility to tournaments.
The Progress Tour, created by former ATP-ranked British tennis player Barry Fulcher, aims to provide level-based tournaments to British players using the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR). The motto of the Progress Tour is ‘Compete. Learn. Earn.’ and is set to hold nine events in 2018.
The Progress Tour is a direct correlation to Borwell’s work with Tennis Smart, as this increase in available tournaments will enable British junior players the ability to play more matches and improve their UTR, which is a rating utilized by American college tennis coaches in recruiting.
Each participant will compete in at least two level-based matches at the events, with the potential for additional matches based on draw size.
“I just want there to be more options for players to compete on a regular basis,” said Borwell. “This is going to help juniors improve their game and get noticed by colleges.”
Competing on the court is just one facet of the Progress Tour. As with Tennis Smart, there’s an educational element to the Progress Tour, as free workshops and seminars will be provided on-site at the tournament locations.
“We are trying to provide a model where the competition and education go hand-in-hand,” said Borwell. “Tennis players traditionally haven’t been given much support when they venture out to try their hand at playing professionally; we’d like to change that and give players as many tools and resources as possible to make their experience a positive one.”
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