May 27th, 2016

Miami Tennis Pro Katerina Stewart Considers the Military Option

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Katerina Stewart_Featured News Story Image 3-16-15Coral Gables teen Katerina Stewart, who has competed over the last four years at USTA Pro Circuit events, is looking to trade one passion for another this summer as she attempts to transition from pro tennis to the military.

The 18-year-old, who just two months ago won back-to-back USTA Pro Circuit events in Weston and Orlando, will next week hear from the United States Military Academy at West Point as to whether she has been accepted.

“I tried the [pro] tour for a year and a half because I had the opportunity when I was around 15 or 16 to go to college or turn pro,” she told USTA Florida. “The results were there and I had the opportunity to get sponsors. I took the chance to play the pro tour, I liked it and liked the traveling and everything, but I’ve always had a passion for the military. It was tough choosing between both of them, and I was like half-[effort] at both of them, and I had already chosen pro, but now I can do both at one school if I go to West Point.”

Stewart (right) after winning the Girls' 18s "Bobby Curtis" title in 2014

Stewart (right) after winning the Girls’ 18s “Bobby Curtis” title in 2014

Stewart has long been a pro prospect after a Florida junior tennis career that saw her win four age-division titles at the USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Singles Championships, joining Chris Evert and a small cadre of other players to win four or more state singles titles during their junior careers.

“I’d be competing in tennis, not the first year because I’d have to catch up on academics, but after that,” said Stewart, who says playing the pro tour would not impede on her eligibility at West Point. “I haven’t accepted more [prize money] than my expenses..the academies allow that [expenses-only], and that’s the school I’ve really always wanted to go to anyways, so it’s perfect.”

She says her love for the military came from her coach — otherwise known as her father.

“My dad was in the army for eight years, and he raised me as a cadet, basically,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve always been around him, I’ve lived with him, so that’s where [the military passion] comes from, I’ve always had it. My dad is really excited because this college gives you so many opportunities and can open so many doors that professional tennis can’t really open, because professional tennis isn’t really set in stone in the future — you don’t really know what’s going to happen. Here I know what job I’m going to get, what’s going to happen, all that stuff, so it’s going to be really good for me.”

Stewart says she is not technically giving up on professional tennis, as she has been told that if she does well in college, there will be sponsorship opportunities to potentially play professionally again.

“The tennis coach was there with me through every step,” she said of a recent West Point visit. “He said that everybody liked me and my maturity and my personality and my enthusiasm and what tennis has given me — it should be fine but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If that option [playing professionally again] does appear, and I want to continue with a pro career, then I could also go back to it. I’m not giving it away completely.”

The Army West Point women’s tennis team this spring saw its season come to a close when they lost to Navy in the Patriot League semifinals 4-1, finishing the season 20-6. Since her first USTA Pro Circuit title in 2014, Stewart has won eight singles titles in 11 finals.