Pure determination – the quality that WTCA President Ann Grossman Wunderlich attributes the most to her successful career as a professional tennis player. Grossman Wunderlich peaked at No. 29 in the world and cemented herself as one of the United States’ top athletes, but her accomplishments would not have been possible without the experiences that shaped her as a player and as a person along the way.
Grossman Wunderlich started playing tennis when she was just four years old due in large part to her father’s love of the sport. She quickly transformed into one of the top junior players in the country, but despite her success, her father would never allow her to play in a professional tournament because she had yet to win a national competition.
Up to the challenge, Grossman Wunderlich broke through as a 16-year-old, winning the 18 National Clay Court Championships, Super Nationals, and the International Grass Court Championships consecutively. By winning Super Nationals, she earned a wild card into the main draw of the US Open, ultimately securing a berth in her first-ever professional tournament.
Prior to achieving that success, Grossman Wunderlich trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where she was exposed to some of the greatest players to ever take the court. Although she never was able to be on the court with the likes of Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Mal Washington and Carling Bassett, the experience of being in the atmosphere of the Bollettieri Academy still left a monumental impact on Grossman Wunderlich’s career.
“Being around those players and being in that atmosphere gave me confidence,” said Grossman Wunderlich. “Nick was an incredible motivator, and seeing how he was with those players on the court really shaped my life and me as a person. He taught me a lot of amazing life skills from just being around him. Sometimes I did get to go on the court and be with Nick, and that was one of the most incredible feelings because him behind me telling me what I need to do really pushed me to another level that was incredible.”
At 16 years of age, Grossman returned home to be coached by her father, where she took on an increased training load due to her recent successes on the court. She continued to rise through the ranks, in large part to the fierce determination that was a staple throughout the entirety of her career.
“I had an incredible fight on the court. I was always trying to prove myself because I was so small,” recalled Grossman Wunderlich. “Nobody really thought that I was going to make it on Tour. Once a coach said that to my dad, ‘Ann will never make it, she’s too small.’ I think that is what always drove me. I always wanted to prove everybody wrong.”
And prove them wrong she did. With wins over notable players such as Martina Navratilova, Mary Jo Fernandez, Zina Garrison, Jana Novotna, and Conchita Martinez Grossman Wunderlich developed a reputation for being a player who could knock off some of the world’s best competitors.
How was Grossman Wunderlich able to pull off those impressive victories? Once again, pure determination. “I had a list of the people that I wanted to beat, and I actually accomplished that list. I think by being able to practice with them and be on the court with them, it gave me confidence,” she explained.
Of course, Grossman Wunderlich’s career was not without struggle. Her father passed away when she was just 20 years old, leaving her without a coach who truly believed in her.
“I didn’t really have an experienced coach. I couldn’t afford to have a really experienced coach” she said. “I didn’t really have anybody in my corner that really, really pushed me to be the best that I could be.”
Now as a coach, Grossman Wunderlich is determined to truly be there for her athletes and push them to be the most successful they can be both on and off the court. Above all, she believes that significant repetition is the key to success
“The ultimate goal is to try to get better every day,” said Grossman Wunderlich. “I know what it’s like to walk out on the courts at Grand Slams, I know that feeling. I want my athletes to get better every day and for them to be the best player that they can be. I think by me having the 20 years of coaching experience and playing at the highest level, that’s what I want for them. If they could be No. 1 in the world, that would be amazing, but it’s more about getting better every day. That’s all you can ask for.”
Whether on the court as a player or on the sidelines as a coach, Grossman Wunderlich continues to use the pure determination that she developed throughout her career as a catalyst for success in the ever-challenging world of tennis.