When CoCo Vandeweghe steps onto the court at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa on July 22 as a member of the Aviators, it will be not only as a former top 10 singles player and current World No. 26 doubles player, but also as a hometown hero. The Rancho Santa Fe resident will mark her tenth season playing World TeamTennis — her third consecutive with the Aviators — returning to once again exert her dominance on both the singles and doubles court. A fierce competitor who’s also known for her ability to rally the crowd behind her in her matches, she’s as eager to play on her home turf as she is to be playing at all.
“Playing at home anytime for me is special,” says Vandeweghe. In fact, she made her pro debut at the former Acura Classic WTA tournament, which was also held at the La Costa Resort. “I was bummed out when the tournament moved because it’s not that often for tennis players or for me to play in front of people I grew up [around]. La Costa is so close to where I live, and I love looking into the crowd and seeing so many people who have helped me out on the way cheering me on.”
This is not only a return to WTT, but Vandeweghe is also slowly making her return to the game itself following an ankle injury that forced her to withdraw from the Australian Open earlier this year, a journey she has documented through Tennis Channel’s blog series “My Tennis Life.” Challenges with her ankle were an issue in 2018 as well, though that didn’t stop her from winning her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open with doubles partner Ashleigh Barty.
“2018 was a year of ups and downs for me,” she admits. “The U.S. Open honestly came out of nowhere for me. My team and I were going back and forth about pulling out since my ankle hadn’t fully recovered yet, but I really did not want to pull out. I had a tough first round singles match, but I was lucky to have such an amazing partner in Ash [Barty], who encouraged me to keep going. Out of nowhere, we found ourselves winning the tournament. Walking away with the trophy was so special because it was a tough year, but winning a Grand Slam is winning a Grand Slam, and I was so proud of that.”
Though the injury has made for challenging times for Vandeweghe, she maintains focus on one clear objective. “My goal is to get healthy,” she says. “That’s my main focus right now, and to keep things in perspective. This injury is just a speed bump in my long career and I hope to come back stronger than before.”
Her Aviators teammates and the crowd will be eager to welcome a healthy Vandeweghe, with her signature intensity and powerful play, back this year in a format where she excels: a team. In addition to being a veteran WTT player, Vandeweghe wasa member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team as well as the 2017 Fed Cup winning United States team. “There is nothing better than playing for your country,” says Vandeweghe. “I love playing Fed Cup and I hope to play in many more Olympic games. Representing Team USA in any way will always be one of my career highlights. While WTT isn’t playing for USA, it’s similar because I get to play for San Diego, which is home for me!”
Like many professional tennis players, she embraces the opportunity to play for a team in what can otherwise often feel like a solitary environment. “I love playing on teams because tennis can be a lonely sport out there, and whenever I’m playing for more than just myself it always adds a little bit of motivation to work harder and get the job done for everyone that is on my team.” Plus, the fast-paced format of WTT plays to her strengths, which include a dominant serve and her own speed of play that she says she uses “to try to keep my opponents from gaining rhythm.”
She’ll also have a leg up on her opponents when the match is over. While they’ll likely retreat to a hotel room, she will get to rest up right at home. “There is nothing better than getting to sleep in my own bed, too, which for a tennis player doesn’t happen as much as you would think!”