Quick chat: Lea Ma – University of Georgia Athletics

By John Frierson
Staff writer

Lea Ma playing some of the best tennis of his life right now. It’s not improved technique or strategy that helps Georgia junior, she said, it’s not worrying about the results that have freed up her game and given her the opportunity to play her best.

Ma, from Dix ​​Hills, NY, is ranked No. 29 in the country and plays No. 1 singles for the 11th-ranked Bulldogs, who host Kentucky on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. She does the same warm-up routine before each match, which includes hitting a certain number of shots with the associated head coach Drake Bernstein.

During a recent Quick Chat, Ma talked about playing better this season, how much tennis she sees, being a veteran on a young team and more. Here is some of what she had to say:

Frierson: In what ways are you a better tennis player today than you were a year ago?

mother: Honestly, this semester I have played some of the best tennis I have ever played and much of it does not worry so much about the results. I just let myself play on the court, relax, play my game and know that I can compete with anyone. A lot of it is more mental than in my game, but it has helped me a lot, just not worrying about winning and losing.

Frierson: How hard is it to get to the place where you are not focused on the outcome?

mother: In the fall, I struggled a lot with what I felt I had a lot of pressure to do well, and then I took some time off during the winter break, and I realized that winning and losing is not the end of the world. That time off during the winter holidays really helped me.

Frierson: How much professional tennis do you watch? Are you glued to the TV every time one of the Grand Slams or major tournaments is played, or do you get enough tennis in your daily life and you want to get away when you’re home?

mother: I look here and there. Some matches I want to see, but not too much. It’s not my favorite thing to do.

Frierson: What do you like to do to get away from school and tennis?

mother: I like being at home and spending time with my family. I have a nephew now and I love watching him grow up, so it’s the most important thing to spend time with my family.

Frierson: There are a lot of new and young players on the team this season, so what is it like now to be on the veterans? Do you like to have a leadership role?

mother: This is new to me. Last year, I liked having our seniors because I could go to them with anything, so this is new to me. I like being there for the new players and supporting them in any way I can. It’s fun to be with them; it’s a great group of girls.

Frierson: What is your favorite course you took in Georgia?

mother: One that is difficult that I did well in was my study of the accounting class. One that was fun for me was one of my FYO classes (First Year Odyssey), it’s a fishing class. And I like fishing.

Frierson: Who is the funniest person on the team?

mother: I have to take Mell (Reasco) with me. She’s really funny and she wants to come up with some fun one-liners.

Frierson: In a perfect world, what do you do in 10 years?

mother: How old am I in 10 years? Oh god, I’m turning 31. Maybe I’m still playing professional tennis.

Frierson: You play for two coaches, Jeff Wallace and Drake Bernstein, who both played for Georgia and has been here a long time. What is it like working with the two every day?

mother: [Laughs] They are both amazing. They are a bit like another family to me and I know I can come to them with everything. I love showing up on the field every day and
it’s easy to play for them; they are always there for me and I have a huge respect for them. On the pitch, they know what to tell me.

Frierson: How often do you try new rackets? Do you always test the new things, or do you tend to stick to the equipment that you know works for you?

mother: I am one who changes every year. Like in the fall, when we’re not in the middle of playing matches, I’ll mess around with a few new rackets, and if I like one, I’ll switch.

Frierson: I have spoken with Meg Kowalski about this, and she said she barely knows what kind of racket she uses at all. Do you get into the details of all the different parts of a racket like string pattern and string tension?

mother: She and I are very different. I need to feel comfortable with what I use. I try to change my tensions depending on where I am. If I know I’m playing outside and it’s hot, I change my excitement because the conditions are different. You have to have a feel for everything.

Frierson: Are you so detail oriented in all parts of your life?

mother: I think it’s just about tennis. I’m an overconfident person on the pitch, but off the pitch I’m fine.

Frierson: What kind of superstition do you have?

mother: In the warm-up, when I hit with my partner, I have to hit the volley first, and I have to serve first, and then at the end of the warm-up, I have to hit six forehands and six backhands with Drake. I do not know, it’s just a routine I have. I’m sorry if I do not.

(This Q&A was easily edited for length and clarity.)

Assistant Sports Communications Director John Frierson is a staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at: Frierson Files. He is also on Twitter: @FriersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.

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