For all of Kayla Fujimoto’s accomplishments on the tennis court last season, including a 33-3 high school season and a 5-8 seed at state, one thing was missing from her game.
“I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,” she said. “I think I had to take a step back and remind myself that I love [tennis] and have some fun with it.”
So this summer, with seven United States Tennis Association tournaments planned, the rising Geneva senior says her biggest priority is just to have fun.
And it seems to be showing, according to her coach at Score Tennis and Fitness Club, Barry King.
“For the last two or three months, a lot of players have commented that Kayla is more fun to be around.” he said. “She’s enjoying it more.”
But having fun isn’t just designed to maintain sanity; it’s a key factor in fully utilizing and improving on Fujimoto’s tennis talents.
“I have all my shots,” Fujimoto said. “I just need to execute them. I think I’m in a good place right now. I just need to put it all together.”
“There’s a lot of mental involved with tennis,” King said. “The harder you try, the worse you do sometimes ... As funny as this is going to sound, the more she can enjoy it, the better she’ll be.”
Fujimoto will get her first dose of fun in a USTA Midwest Section District Team Cup this weekend in Indiana, where Fujimoto will play on a team of other Northern Illinois district singles players.
While traveling around the country for USTA events might sound more glamorous than the high school season, Fujimoto said travel tennis and the high school season are not that different.
“You know, a match is a match,” she said, “and a win is a win.”
The busy summer schedule is nothing new for Fujimoto, a Vikings standout since her freshman season.
“That’s what its been like for I don’t know how long,” she said.
But this year, Fujimoto gets something she hasn’t had for years – an actual vacation to Georgia.
“Tournaments have been like vacations,” she said, “because you travel ... but it’ll be nice to just relax and not have to worry about tennis.”
King says the vacation should do Fujimoto some good.
“Most younger players, they just play, play, play,” King said. “It’s tough. So when they make plans, when they can do do something fun, then they know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I think that helps a lot.”
Fujimoto has also been getting looks from various colleges.
“I’ve talked to a number of coaches already,” King said, “from a couple of Big Ten schools and a Big East school ... I think she’s going to develop and improve even more in college... She’ll be an excellent addition to any team.”
Fujimoto says it’s too early to decide on college just yet. For now, she’s keeping an open mind.
“I’m not looking ahead too far,” she said. “My options are pretty open. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”