Risks pay off for well-traveled Zhang
Amy Zhang traveled a long and winding road on her way to becoming Rutgers' tennis ace. Though she was born in China, Zhang called Nebraska, California and Texas home at different points in her life.
While attending Plano Senior High School in Texas, Zhang became a star athlete on the tennis court and it wasn't long before colleges across the country began recruiting her. Pondering her choices, she decided that it was time for yet another change of scenery.
"I really wanted to go to a big school on the east coast," Zhang said. "I knew I would have to adjust to the different weather, but that wasn't a big deal."
It turned out RU was the perfect fit, so upon her high school graduation in 2007, she packed her bags and, once again, moved far away. The decision worked out quite well for Zhang, who is now a junior and the Scarlet Knights' top performer.
Zhang was the team's number two singles player throughout her freshman season, before stepping up to the top spot last year. She flourished as a sophomore in 2009 posting a record of 16-5 and earned All-Big East honors.
Now more than halfway through her career at RU, it's fair to say Zhang lived up to the high expectations that accompanied her when she arrived as a heralded recruit three years ago.
"Amy has the potential to be better," said assistant coach Alex Arlak. "Her record is good now but she can definitely improve on it. She hits all those pounding shots and I'd like to see her develop more of a volley game at the net."
Though she dropped her first match of this spring season at Syracuse, she rebounded quickly by shutting out her opponent in last Thursday's match against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Zhang's style of play is just as unique as her background.
She possesses a free flow style that requires instinct and rare talent. Her game relies on the ability to hammer down-the-line shots that most collegiate players wouldn't dare attempt. Some may call it living dangerously, but Zhang is consistently able to pull it off.
Occasionally she attempts a seemingly ill-advised shot and, to her teammates' surprise, she nails it — just another reminder of why Zhang is one of the conference's most feared players.
"I definitely make some unorthodox choices when I play," Zhang said. "Hitting down the line is considered a risky thing. But ever since I was young it hasn't felt that way, and I've been able to make the shot. That's just the way I play."
Though her approach sometimes drives coaches crazy, it's hard to argue with the results.
"They don't really like the way I play sometimes," Zhang said with a grin. "But, I mean, it works."