She has been playing tennis since the age of four but Bahamian junior tennis sensation Sydney Clarke is not slowing down any time soon. The year 2019 is coming to a close and it was a memorable one for the top junior tennis player.
Clarke had an injury-free year and persevered to get the results she wanted.
“Another year no injury. It was a pretty good year,” Clarke said.
“Sometimes, I felt like I was down in the dumps but I picked myself up and kept pushing. It gets really hard and you always have to put 100 percent if you want to get results, so I had to stick with the program and keep pushing and fighting. I got the results that I wanted.”
She had many highlights during the year that included representing The Bahamas at the Fed Cup; being crowned the national women’s champion; and playing in several International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments around the region (St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago).
However, Clarke said her biggest highlight of the year was capturing the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Female Junior Athlete of the Year award.
“That was a great accomplishment for me to be known as the best female junior athlete,” she said.
“I was very surprised. I wasn’t expecting it. I knew I was a nominee, but I was not expecting it. When they called my name, I was very surprised and it was an honor to get the award.”
Her highest rank on the ITF was 261 worldwide. She travels a lot and the Windsor Prep student admits that it is hard to balance the two. She added that her school works with her and makes her job easier.
Her 261 ranking on the world stage was a great accomplishment for her and she looks forward to her career on the women’s circuit.
“I have been very proud of my results. I did well for my junior career, so reaching 261 was a great accomplishment for me and I just hope to go even further than that on the women’s circuit.”
Recently, the Windsor Prep student decided to sign a letter of intent to go to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She will be playing tennis and majoring in Entrepreneurship with a minor in Broadcast Journalism.
“At first, most of my decisions were looking at Florida and then I just happened to be approached by the coach from Alabama, so we started talking and he came and watched me play at one of my tournaments in May and when I went to visit in October. I felt it is a great fit for me. I felt comfortable and they had a lot of my majors that I wanted to pursue and I just felt comfortable with the team as well as with the coach.”
She will be coached by Mark Tija while at UAB who is excited to have her on board.
“We are very excited to have Sydney join our Blazer family,” said Tjia.
“Not only does she bring an impressive junior record with her, but more importantly, she comes with strong character and she emulates the same values that our team embraces.”
When she gets to UAB, she hopes to complete her four years, get her degree and also leave her mark on the tennis team. In addition, she wants to make her presence felt on and off the court – academics, sports and community service.
The tennis star will be finishing high school in June 2020. For the next few months, she will be focusing on completing exams. She will also juggle training and playing tournaments throughout the year while preparing for college.
Clarke knows that she could not have done it without her parents Shayvon and Bernard Clarke, and her sister Sarai Clarke.
“Both of my parents have been a very huge impact in my sports and academic life as well as my sister. All of them support me, so I have to thank them for everything. They always push me and constantly tell me that I can do it and they believe in me. I always try to make them proud.”
Clarke said she will definitely miss home when she heads to Alabama.
For now, the number two seeded Clarke is attempting to repeat as the national champion. She played Larikah Russell in the semi-finals. No results were available at press time. If she defeats Russell, she will play against the number one seeded Kerrie Cartwright in the finals today at the National Tennis Center.