DC’s Hailey Baptiste is happy to be home at the Citi Open

Suspension

It’s been three years since Hailey Baptiste last played DC, but since her practice serves tattoos, the hard court surface of Rock Creek Park Tennis Center – This Week’s Location Fatah City Baptiste feels comfortable at home.

For the D.C. native, Rock Creek Park has been the backdrop to some of her formative experiences—like when 4-year-old Baptiste put her father, Kasim, aware while giving him work with an adult-sized racket. Or when family friends, who were at the event, turned a blind eye when Baptiste snuck through the back entrance to watch some of the best games at the Citi Open.

Or in particular, when 17-year-old Baptiste apparently announced her presence in women’s tennis. By inconvenience then not. 17 Madison Keys In the first round of the Citi Open 2019.

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“I don’t really believe in magic or things like that,” said Baptiste, “but it’s hard to describe in words what these courts and this city meant to me and my profession.” “With all the familiar faces in the crowd, it’s like having an advantage on home ground or something. Good things always seem to happen to me here.”

With the women’s section of the City Open returning after a two-year hiatus, Baptiste will be hoping her home-court supremacy will lead to another formative experience on Monday as her first-round draw pits her against seventh seed Jessica Pegula.

Baptiste, 20, finds herself in a very different situation than the last time she played in the nation’s capital. Having ditched Keys in 2019, she seemed poised for a journey to the upper echelons of the women’s rankings. But its growth was not entirely linear.

Since becoming a full-time professional in January 2020, Baptiste has struggled to play constantly as the coronavirus pandemic has upended schedules and nagging injuries kept her away.

“It’s been a frustrating road for me, to say the least,” Baptiste said. “When you dream of being a professional tennis player when you are 9 years old, you never take into account the difficult parts of that journey. You just assume that she will go for you like she did with Serena. [Williams] or [Rafael] Nadal. But being professional is really hard, and every day is a new challenge.”

Baptiste’s biggest challenge is making enough money to break even. Its 148th rating doesn’t mean a great salary after accounting for expenses.

With no sponsorship, Baptiste had to make some tough sacrifices, like sharing hotel rooms with other players, traveling to tournaments at odd hours, skipping meals from time to time and going without a constant coach.

Baptiste earned $175,288 in 2022, before taxes, but said she had to spend more than $130,000 in expenses.

“Don’t get me wrong – I’m fortunate to be a professional tennis player – but it’s impossible not to look at other sports and think what life would be like for the top 150,” Baptiste said. “I chose this sport and I understand you have to win to make money, so I don’t think I’m here looking for sympathy or anything. [I’m] Just telling you the truth about sports.”

Baptiste’s mother, Shari Deichmann, cashed in thousands of dollars worth of inherited bonds and stocks and even indulged in her retirement fund to help keep her daughter’s dream alive. At the same time, Baptiste’s father works as her day manager.

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“For me, it’s a family affair,” Deichmann said. “Before I had Hailey, I was planning to move to New York and work in the fashion industry. So I know what it’s like to give up on your dreams and have those nagging thoughts about what it could have been. I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure my only child never has to deal with that” .

Martin Blackman, general manager of player development for the US Tennis Association, said Baptiste is not alone. While the various tennis associations provide some players with financial assistance, making ends meet is a real concern for any player ranked outside the top 50.

“It’s a difficult journey at first because there are a lot of expenses… that tennis players have to account for when navigating through the lower levels of the professional circuit,” Blackman said. “Fortunately for Hailey, she has all the talent and ability to regularly participate in major tournaments, which over time will ease her financial burden. We believe that Hailey will become one of the top 50 players in the near future.”

When Baptiste was healthy, he had already proven himself to be a top 50 talent. In May, she won three consecutive French Open qualifiers to reach the main draw before retiring in the first round due to injury.

“If I can become healthy and comfortable, I know I can be one of the best players in the sport,” Baptiste said. “I think coming back to DC for the Citi Open and some home cooking is exactly what the doctor ordered.”