Angie Zhou practically grew up playing tennis – and you can see it in her game. The No. 1 singles player for Huron’s impressive varsity team plays the game with an easiness every time she swings the racket. She’s smooth in all parts of the game and just seems like a natural – like she was born with a racket in her hand.
“Some of my biggest strengths are my consistency and steadiness,” Zhou says. “I usually don’t give my opponents a lot of free points, which means that they are required to win the points with good shots. I am also usually pretty steady, which really helps during matches because I am able to stay calm and think clearly about what I need to do.”
In other words, she doesn’t get rattled – and that in turn can rattle the opponent. Tennis is a mind game where the composed and focused usually gain the advantage. That said, Zhou continues to work on her game which is another one of her strengths.
“There are many things I still need to work on, one of which is being more aggressive,” she says. “Even though I’ve improved a lot within the past few years, I can still work on moving into the court and controlling the point. I think that I can also work on deep, heavy balls that push my opponent back into the court and help set me up for short balls.”
Only a sophomore, Zhou has been playing tennis for as long as she can remember.
“My love for the sport has definitely grown throughout the years,” she says. “I really like how tennis is a very all-around sport. It requires both mental and physical toughness and requires that you work on all aspects of your game. There are so many things you can work on — groundstrokes, volleys, serves, footwork — and you can always improve something.”
She also likes the strategy of tennis.
“Strategy plays such a crucial role in matches,” she says. “A large component of tennis isn’t actually hitting the ball, but where you hit the ball. You need to adjust and learn the patterns of each opponent you face, which can often be difficult but makes the sport very interesting.”
In her first season on varsity last year, Zhou jumped right to the top of the depth chart, playing one singles. She not only played one singles, she dominated one singles. The ninth-grader was undefeated until she lost in the semifinals at States.
She earned All-State and helped lead the River Rats to a Regional title and fifth place at the state finals. “Overall, I think that we played very well last year and improved a lot from start to finish,” she said.
Zhou, who has taken lessons at Huron Valley Tennis Club and also takes lessons from Dan Goldberg and plays in a group at Liberty, said one of the big highlights last year was winning the Regional tournament, both individually and as a team.
But the win wasn’t easy – which probably made it so special.
“I had a very long, three-set match that I eventually closed in to win the Regional title,” she said. “It was a really big accomplishment for me that I didn’t believe was possible, but after that, I realized that with strength and hard work I could accomplish anything I pushed myself towards.
“Along with that, winning Regionals as a team was also very exciting because Huron hadn’t won it in a very long time. We all fought hard to win the Regional title, and everyone was really happy to have all of our work pay off.”
Playing in the state tournament was another highlight for Zhou, who played a good match in the semifinals against Tia Mukherjee before losing.
“That match really challenged me and helped me understand my game better,” she said. “I really enjoyed the team atmosphere of the tournament, which I had never experienced before in the USTA tournaments I’ve competed in. It was a completely new experience, and I’m definitely looking forward to states this year as well.”
Speaking of this year, the River Rats are off to another strong start. Zhou says the team is very easygoing and love to joke around a lot. Both on the court and off, Huron seems to enjoy each other’s company and always have fun.
“For most of us, tennis is a very fun sport that we love competing in,” she says. “At times, we can be a little too carefree, but we always try our best and do what we can to win.”
She says the main goal for this year is to do their best – if they do that, good things will certainly happen for this very talented group.
“I think that in the next few years, we can grow even more and become even better tennis players,” she says. “Improvement is one of our constant goals and something we’re always striving to achieve. As long as we’re putting in all of our efforts during the practices and matches, I think that success will eventually come our way.”
Angie, the daughter of Wei Zhou and Lijun Han, also excels in the classroom where she has a 4.0 grade-point average. She hasn’t decided on a major or college but knows she wants to play tennis at the next level. In the meantime, she will keep on improving, having fun and winning matches for the River Rats.