PARK SLOPE, BROOKLYN – It’s hard for Carrie-Anne Hoo to keep her head up to rise to number one in the country – even with a giant photo confirming the news at the tennis center in Vlissingen where she practices.
“It was right at the entrance — I kind of panicked,” Hoo, a Park Slope high school student, told Patch that he’d walked in to see the photo. “…When I was young I thought there would be [always] these few people were before me and suddenly I saw that I was number one. I didn’t really believe it.”
The photo, lined up in front of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, came in the days after Hoo discovered she had reached the number one spot in the national rankings for juniors, or girls ages 12 and under.
The news was particularly shocking considering that just two years earlier, Hoo had been ranked all the way at number 4,417.
Her rapid success was, oddly enough, a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing Hoo to travel and exercise more than ever before, she said.
“During the pandemic, I got to experience a lot more,” Hoo said. “I could travel to national tournaments, I could train outside more… I kept trying.”
In the early days of the pandemic, when Hoo couldn’t go to court to practice, she kept up her tennis game by hitting balls in her garage.
Hoo then began using local outdoor courts and eventually, thanks to the distance learning options, was able to travel to 15 national tournaments over the course of two years, far more than if she had been in the classroom in person five days a week.
“It helps a lot,” Hoo’s mom, May Voo, told Patch about distance learning. “[Before] if she was gone…she would have to miss school.”
The tournaments were especially helpful in working on her “net play” and ability to play doubles, especially with her partner, Nancy Lee, who ranks fourth in the country, Hoo said.
The 12-year-old has loved tennis since she was 7 years old when her father put her in the classroom.
Hoo said if she had to tell her younger self, or other younger players, a lesson about the game, it would be to “never give up.”
“Even if something seems really impossible, if you keep working for it, you can get it,” she said.
With the number one ranking under her belt, her goal is to become number one for any age group and play tennis in college.
“After that, I want to turn pro,” she said.