In this week’s Tennis Spotlight I had the opportunity to talk to Taylor Ng. Taylor graduated from Dartmouth in 2017 and holds the record for the most career singles and doubles wins. Taylor worked in finance in New York City for 2 years after college and loved it, but when going to watch Dartmouth play one day she realized how much she missed the sport. In 2019, Taylor decided to start training again and try and make it on tour. Unfortunately soon after deciding to play again Covid came about and forced her to be unable to compete. Currently ranked 848 on the WTA Tour she plans to start playing ITF tournaments again this summer. She has continued to train and plays UTR Pro events here in the U.S and has been enjoying the competition. Throughout this interview, Taylor and I talked about her junior career, college career, life after college, how a job in New York City prepared her for the tour, how tennis has shaped her, and some advice for junior tennis players.
- At what age did you start playing tennis and fall in love with the sport?
I started at the age of 4 growing up in New Jersey. I did not fall in love with the sport till freshman year of college.
- Can you share your junior tennis experience? How did tennis play a part of your life during your childhood?
I played junior tennis till I was about 13 or 14 and then I stopped playing because I played many other sports. I only played high school tennis during freshman and sophomore year. I then decided that I wanted to try and get a tennis scholarship so I started playing a lot of junior tournaments to try and get recruited. I played 4 or 5 sports going into high school. Tennis was the sport I played the least, but I think that is why I stuck with it in the end. When I saw tennis could be a team sport that’s when I knew it was for me.
- Can you recall a moment during your junior career where you decided you wanted to play college tennis? What was your recruiting process like?
It was during the middle of my junior year of high school. My mom sat me down and talked to me about playing in college. She said that I would have to start to play more to be able to do that. I said yes and then we started playing a lot of tournaments and reached out to a lot of schools. I got some nice responses from Penn, Cornell, and Dartmouth. The coach at Dartmouth drove four hours to watch me play my second tournament after deciding to play college tennis. I was surprised because I did not have a record to show for at the time he came to watch me play. When he made me an offer I remember saying yes right away.
- What were some things you were looking for when choosing the right college for you?
I wanted the best education I could get. I also wanted to be close to my family. They are all located in the northeast so Dartmouth was perfect.
- Can you recall your first practice at Dartmouth? Now, can you recall your last conference match vs Princeton? How did your emotions differ?
I distinctly remember it. We would always sit down in our lounge with a sheet of paper that had the quote of the day on it and the practice plan. We knew what we were going to accomplish that day. That first practice we also got all of our gear. I had a black Dartmouth hat in my hand during our first cheer. We went outside and I put the hat on and had so much pride to wear that and represent Dartmouth and what Dartmouth Women’s tennis stands for. I remember being focused during our first drill, I think that was the most consistent I ever was at Dartmouth.
I remember our Ivy League Championship match. We played against Princeton and we were in a 3-way tie for the title. We had a huge win the day before. All of my friends and family were there supporting the team and I. I ended up winning 10-7 in the third set tiebreak. I remember fist-pumping to my parents because they have been there for me through everything. I consider that my last match and not the NCAA team match just because it felt so much more special.
The excitement and emotion were similar in regards to feeling so much pride. There was so much unknown during that first practice and then by the end, I had seen everything and saw my college experience come into fruition and it was a joy to see how far we had come. No matter how long that last match turned out, I would have felt excited and happy.
- Over your college career, what is one thing that you had difficulties overcoming?
I think from a literal perspective it was difficult managing academics, athletics, and social life as well. I am not someone that is not great at compartmentalizing and if something is going on you are going to see it on my face. I wear my heart on my sleeve. So it was tough and I had to learn how to deal with it. In regards to tennis, I tend to overthink things. It was hard for me to find my game in a match if the match started badly. I have been focusing on that now.
- Playing tennis at an IVY League school must have been even more difficult to balance Academics and Athletics. Did that prepare you for your job in NYC? Can you share a study tip with upcoming college tennis players?
I like to fill every minute of every day with something. My time at Dartmouth prepared me for my finance job in New York and when I would be on 4 or 5 different projects I was never super stressed. I was up early and went to bed as early as possible. I knew that I could always predict my schedule and my energy levels in the morning. I knew when I had practice and workouts so I knew when I was going to have the most energy to study. When I had to get work done I would never study in a social space.
- Can you talk about your team culture at Dartmouth? How did it change over the 4 years?
In general, I think our team culture was great. A lot of our culture was oriented around the team atmosphere. Like in many professional organizations it starts from the top and trickles down. The coaches did an amazing job shaping our team culture. Some years we prioritize other things but we were always quite close as a team. We always tried to be as inclusive and workable as possible. All of the core principles stayed constant throughout our time there.
- What was your most memorable moment at Dartmouth?
Graduation of course was very memorable for everyone. Seeing my coach and his wife there brought the whole experience full circle. Myself and a couple of other varsity athletes created a community outreach program for health and wellness. To see the work we put into building that pays off, was quite memorable. After we beat Princeton on our senior day we found out we won the three-way tie in the Ivy League title and won it. We were running down the hall yelling with tears in my eyes because I realized that we had won. It was only the second time in school history.
- Did you have any idea that you would become the most winningest player in program history During your career at Dartmouth?
I had no idea what to expect, so no I did not anticipate that whatsoever. I did not understand how much runway there was and how much room there was to improve. I attribute that statistic to my coaches and my teammates.
- Can you talk about how tough it was to leave your finance job to go pro after being out of tennis for 2 years?
I loved my job in New York and it was such a positive experience. The first thing I was thinking was can I see myself doing this long term. To a certain extent, yes but it was very rigorous. I thought about sticking with the company for a long time and still do when tennis ends. The biggest thing that helped make my decision was the knowledge that I will not be in my twenties forever. The window to play professionally will be narrower the longer I wait. I can have that finance job when I am 40 and cannot be playing on tour effectively at 40. My biggest fear in my life is regretting things, to this day I do not think I have regretted anything. If I would not have tried to go pro I think I would have regretted it.
- Would you have been able to play pro right out of college?
I think I could have but I was battling injuries and would have needed some time off before trying to play. It would have been a bit more of a traditional route compared to the route I went. All of my family and mentors knew I was ready to start in the business world so it makes sense why I temporarily hung up the racquets.
- Did your finance job prepare you for the tour?
It definitely helped to work for 2 years from a financial standpoint. I think the most beneficial thing it has brought me was showing me what my backup is if tennis does not work. I have chosen to play tennis and I do not necessarily know what I want to do after. That has helped me during those times where I am worried about my tennis or abilities. I also budgeted in the 2 years and how to invest it properly. I could not have done that without my parents showing me how to do it from a young age. I have even created budget projections to further plan and I learned how to be independent and safe in a big crazy city. All of which help me on tour!
- What was one aspect of professional tennis that might have surprised you?
I am pleasantly surprised with how many friends I have made on tour. It is very challenging and lonely but I enjoy meeting new people and playing against friends. You have to find a balance and be able to compete against friends and walk off of the court being cordial. That to me is an incredibly meaningful part of my tennis experience. When you have a chance to be around people that are going through the same triumphs and struggles as you gives you a higher level of connection.
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have no idea. I want to take tennis as long as I can until I feel there is no runway. That runway could be a point where I feel like I am not improving or a mental end to the runway. It could also be if my ranking stops progressing. Who knows I could be playing tennis, have a finance job, or be on a boat somewhere.
- How has tennis molded you into the person you are today?
Tennis has molded me mostly because it has taught me persistence and resilience. I think it is so valuable to understand how to handle a loss. It is not something that a lot of people appreciate necessarily. I have had to train myself to learn to have short-term memory loss so I can move forward from losses and focus on the positive things. Staying in the past hurts you. Thinking forward is so important in life.
- If you could give one piece of advice to a 12-year-old tennis player with college tennis aspirations what would it be?
I would recommend keeping your life balances. Do not feel like you only have to play tennis. If you want to do that, then go for it. But if you have other interests then do those as well, they can be just as valuable to tennis training. Building friendships and social life is just as important as training and playing tennis. It will give you tangible skills as well as social and interpersonal skills.
- If you could give one piece of advice to a high school junior looking to start their recruiting process, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to not limit themselves in regards to certain schools in mind. Go for it, the worst thing that could happen is they say they are not interested. That is ok, it is a part of the process. You will never know what doors are open for you if you do not knock. Go for every school that you want, do not set any bounds for yourself.