Mallory Burdette began the summer preparing for a career in psychiatry. She’s ending it with a surprise run at the U.S. Open tennis tournament that might change her outlook when she returns to Stanford University.
Burdette, 21, a wild-card invitee to the season’s final Grand Slam tournament, advanced to a third-round match against No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova with a 6-2, 6-4 win yesterday against Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.
Burdette, from Jackson, Georgia, is making her Grand Slam singles debut at the National Tennis Center in New York. She had been concentrating on getting to medical school before earning an unexpected U.S. Open spot.
“I really want to be a psychiatrist, so I was interested in med school,” she said in a news conference. “My success this summer has kind of taken me in a different path a little bit. I think my focus will be a little bit different when I go back to school.”
Burdette, ranked No. 252 in the world, decided to play in some professional tournaments this summer to see how she enjoyed life on the road, and won an International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit event in Vancouver to earn a wild card in New York.
“To end up here at the U.S. Open was a huge surprise,” said Burdette, a captain at Stanford. “I never expected that at the beginning of the summer. It’s been a crazy ride.”
Burdette, who will be a senior at Stanford, was an All-American in singles and doubles as a junior. She partnered with Nicole Gibbs to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association doubles title, and lost to Gibbs in the NCAA singles final.
If she was a professional, Burdette would have earned $65,000 so far in New York by reaching the third round. She said she isn’t thinking about how much she’s passing up.
“I have already checked the amateur box, so if I know correctly, you can’t go back once the tournament starts,” Burdette told reporters. “So it’s done.”
Sharapova, 25, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, won her second-round match 6-0, 6-1 last night against Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain. She has dropped five games in her first two matches at this year’s tournament.
Burdette said she has “always looked up to” Sharapova and, as a future psychiatrist, admires the Russian’s approach on the court. Sharapova turns her back to her opponent before every point to prepare for the next series of shots.
“She’s very meticulous between points, doing her routines,” Burdette said. “You can tell she’s in the zone every time she walks up to play a point.”
The 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Burdette won all nine of her service games against Hradecka, who is ranked 69th in the world, using an attacking style on the court.
She is not the first member of her family to excel in the sport. An older sister, Erin, was a four-time All-American at Stanford in 2002-05 and another older sister, Lindsay, was a four-time All-American for the Cardinal in 2007-10. Her older brother, Andy, played college tennis at Army.
Though becoming a professional tennis player has long been her goal, Burdette said she didn’t expect to be winning Grand Slam matches so soon.
“I never thought I would have this type of success in singles, honestly,” she said.