An Oh-So-Close Miss for Loeb0
By Chuck Slater
Success and failure are still major parts of the career of Jamie Loeb, the young tennis professional from Ossining. Now 22, the 5-foot, 6-inch athlete with the big forehand and two-handed backhand dropped out of Ossining High for home schooling after a sophomore season in which she won the state scholastic singles title. She wanted to devote full time to a tennis future.
After winning the NCAA individual championship at North Carolina University in 2015, she received a wild-card invitation to the U.S. Open but her own debilitating back injury and a fourth-seeded opponent in the first round added up to a quick exit.
She hasn’t made it back since to the American grand-slam championship which is currently ongoing. But she came close this year — boy, did she ever come close.
To qualify for the main draw, a hopeful for the big event must win three qualifying matches. Loeb won two in late August, routing NaLae Han of Korea, 6-4, 6-2, then outlasting the tough Russian Vera Zvonareva, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4. But, needing just one further win, the day after beating Zvonareva she fell to the talented Floridian, Sachia Vickery, 6-3, 6-4, in a match as tight as the score would indicate. And adding a touch of irony, Vickery had been Loeb’s practice partner for the matches ahead during the week.
“To come so close and not make it, it definitely hurts,” said a downcast Loeb shortly after the match. Counting her loss to Vickery, Loeb’s match record this year is 17-12 despite her hard work, dedication and talent. It is slightly better in doubles, where she has always excelled. She usually comes out first in one pro event a year — not one of the majors, of course.
Loeb’s next play-for-pay effort will start September 11 in Canada. And she now has an additional challenge: Her long-time, New York-based coach Felix Alverado, who has often accompanied her to tournaments, is moving to Florida. He has, however promised to be there for Loeb and she has decided to retain him. Alverado believes in his young athlete more than anyone except perhaps Loeb herself and her devoted family. “She needs to get in the top 100, the top 50,” he has said. “Jamie Loeb hits the ball as well as the girls in the top 20. And she works very hard. She wants it.”
You have to want it a lot. If you are not one of the girls in the top 50, the life of a traveling competitive tennis pro is not an easy one. You must handle your own travel arrangements and meals and do it as economically as possible while being alone in many strange places. In Loeb’s lone tournament victory this year, a $60,000 event back in February in Tasmania, the winner’s share was just $9,000.
But the girl who was introduced to racket sports by brother Jason before she could walk still has that overwhelming love of her sport despite hardships. Does she regret, she was asked, that decision to put tennis first after her sophomore year of high school? “Oh no, definitely not,” she said with the same firmness she hits a forehand.