Cayla Cross, Bermuda’s number one female tennis player, credits her father for encouraging her to keep persevering in a sport she started off hating.
“I started playing tennis when I was 10,” Cross told the Bermuda Sun.
“My father was my coach. He took up being a tennis coach after being a cricketer, and I was his guinea pig.
“I hated tennis at the beginning. My dad had to pay me to play. Every time I hit the ball over the net it was 10 cents, so I would go home each day with all this money.
“I won my first tennis tournament when I was 10. After I won that, I realized, okay, I guess I actually like this sport. Without my dad, tennis would not have happened for me.”
Cross, coming off wins in both the William Way and Deloitte Open tournaments, wasn’t even aware of her ranking until her father checked in and discovered she was first and had been for a while.
She added: “It’s nice to be number one. I’ve accomplished a goal. You’re always striving to be the best, to come out on top.
“So after coming back from college I could have easily given up tennis or said I’ve done my part with tennis to help me get through school, but I still wanted to compete locally, and my aim is to be the best on the island.”
The 22-year-old is back from four years at North Carolina A&T University, where her tennis career was highlighted by her earning the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference Women’s Player of the Week.
The awards came at a cost, however, as she had to go through intense training as part of the tennis team.
“My first year at college we had two weeks of training to start the off-season. For the first two weeks you don’t even need a racquet because the coach just runs you to death.
“I had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and first thing he says is ‘give me 20 laps’, and that’s around four tennis courts. Then he gave us a little five-minute break and said ‘Okay, 10 more’.
“By the end of that day I remember calling home to my daddy crying, saying ‘This is not what I signed up for. My other friends in college don’t have to deal with this right now. I might as well be on the track team’. But he was encouraging and told me not to give up. Mind over matter.
“In the long run, the training definitely helped me, especially mentally.”
Cross has no tournaments planned for the summer, but is looking forward to representing Bermuda at the CAC games in November.