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Havre de Grace professional tennis player Sophie Chang just wants to play

Professional tennis player Sophie Chang on her home court at her family's home in Havre de Grace.
Professional tennis player Sophie Chang on her home court at her family's home in Havre de Grace. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Sophie Chang is a 23-year old tennis pro from Havre de Grace who may have to leave this country if she wants to play again this year.

Chang recently returned from California where she spent 28 days and played a lot of tennis. “Two matches a day, three or four days a week which is actually kind of a lot. I was out there for 28 days and I played 26 matches in that time, which is a lot,” Chang said.

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All were exhibition matches, in which Chang was paid to play and while it wasn’t breaking the bank, it was enough to support her while she was there.

“They had these really cool UTR pro series exhibitions. They were in Tampa, Fl. and there were some in Newport Beach, Ca., so I actually flew out to Newport Beach and played there for two weeks in July and the whole month of August,” Chang said.

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“I was able to compete and play a lot of matches and they were all streamed on ESPN 3. A lot of my family or people who had wanted to watch me play could watch and that was a really fun and unique kind of experience that we don’t get a lot,” Chang added. “It was really, really fun, too, I felt like I was able to kind of work on my game and get some good match play in, really get back to kind of enjoying competing, which I’ve felt like it’s been hard to do lately.”

Chang returned home to Havre de Grace from California early in September and she has been training and teaching a good bit since returning. “I’m kind of in the middle of deciding what I’m going to do next, because obviously, officially the tour restarted in August, Chang said. “There’s no tournaments that I can play here and it’s hard to travel, obviously as an American, but I might go and play, there’s a possibility I might go to Egypt and play smaller events there. If I can put that together, it would be kind of expensive to go, but I do want to keep competing, so I’m considering that.”

Tennis in a tough business. If you are not ranked in the top 150, then you’re losing money, noted Chang.

“It’s a sport where it goes year round and it’s very competitive because your ranking points are only good for a year and there’s no insurance, so to say. If you lose your ranking, you don’t get in,” Chang explained. “You feel like you need to play year round and yet, it’s hard, you never have time to save up money or do anything you can do to make sure you can sustain that type of lifestyle. It’s a very difficult sport, we’re hoping maybe we can make some improvements in that area.”

Chang says her career high in singles came in 2018 at 270 singles and 130 in doubles. Currently she believes she’s around 400 in singles and 300 in doubles.

The numbers have likely dipped some recently due to COVID and injury. “Since the whole break with the virus, back in March, I actually was injured for the beginning of it, which wasn’t terrible timing selfishly for my tennis,” Chang said. “Of course no one wanted that virus pandemic to happen. I took some time off at the beginning of the year and then slowly got back into training around May and June and since then, I’ve just been balancing through the summer playing some exhibitions and training for the most part and teaching now, a little bit.”

The teaching has been taking place in Pikesville at the Suburban Club.

Chang turned pro in January of 2016, despite a commitment to a college. Chang had committed and signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Virginia. “Seemed to be the right decision for me,” Chang said.

Despite that, Chang still intends on doing schooling. She said she always intended on getting a degree, because that’s how her parents raised her.

“I definitely plan to do some more. These four years I’ve been pretty much playing full time and it has taken, from where I was in my game and what I needed to work on and develop and the amount playing I was doing, it was pretty full time with my tennis schedule,” Chang said. “I just didn’t feel like I was really able to take the time out to take any classes or stuff, yet. But, just recently, since the break, I’ve been able to have some time to work on things and really kind of solidify some parts of my game that I had wanted to work on a while and never got the chance to.”

Chang says she’s considering taking online classes again and has always had intention to come back to it. “Before I turned pro, I had every intention of going to school and playing for school,” Chang said. She’s not sure of a degree, but it will be in the science field.

As for Egypt and the chance to play more in 2020.

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“Only option for me is probably to go to Egypt, there’s a bunch of $15,000 tournaments over there. They’re the, I won’t say they’re the lowest level, they will draw good players, especially because of the situation, but also, good players go to them. If you win the entire tournament, even though it’s a total purse $15,000, so if you win the whole tournament, I think you get about $1,200. Unless I’m winning all the tournaments, I don’t think I’ll be making much money,” Chang said. “But that’s not what I’m really looking for, I would be hoping that I would just be getting a lot of good match play and hopefully, working on my game and maybe create something like I had going on out in California, obviously with less money. I don’t see too many other options if I want to play again this year.”

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