Tennis Prose



Finished at 20

Sofya Zhuk won the junior Wimbledon singles title in 2015 at age 15 as an unseeded unknown. She beat Anna Blinkova 75 64. She won her first WTA match in 2018 in Indian Wells, taking out Alize Cornet.

Zhuk would eventually rise to a career ranking of 116 in December 2018 (her ranking has dropped now to 436).

Today, at age 20, Zhuk says she is done with tennis. She “kinda hates” tennis and does not play or train anymore and on Instagram referred to herself as a “former” player. She lives in Brickell in Miami with her best friend Anna Kalinskaya, the WTA no. 112.

Zhuk says she has no interest to watch any pro tennis except when Kalinskaya is playing.

It’s unclear exactly why Zhuk decided to hang up her racquets. Her last pro match was at Wimbledon qualies 1R last year, where she lost to Varvara Lepchenko 67 62 06.

A lot was expected from Zhuk by the tennis world. Nike invested in her, so did Yonex.

She trained at Justine Henin’s academy in Belgium, later at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. She won her first tournament at Shymkent, becoming only the seventeenth 14 year old in ITF history to win an open tournament at that age, joining a select group which includes former WTA world no. 1s Henin and Dinara Safina.

Zhuk also won a $60,000 ITF title in Turkey, beating local favotie Ipek Soylu in the final.

But the lows outnumbered the highs for the modelesque Russian and her pro results were limited. She never won a match in a Grand Slam main draw. But she did earn almost $400,000 in prize money.

Will the talented Zhuk get bored with Miami life, sports cars and boyfriends, and decide to return to competition like her pal Kalinskaya? Or has this young rebel spirit had enough of non-stop training, sacrificing, competing and hitting yellow spheres?

Here is the Biofile I did with Sofya four years ago at IMG

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  • JohnnyTD · June 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    At least she didn’t throw her tennis career away without good reason like many young talents, that chronic spine condition is the worst thing she can have. Just look at Szávay, after all these years she’s still crippled by her spine injury, so quitting was probably the wisest thing for Sofya to do.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Johnny, I predict Zhuk just burned out and needs a long break, in some ways like Barty. I think Zhuk missed out on partying and having fun in her teens and she’s making up for lost time now. She has too much talent to not play again. Unless she marries a billionaire or becomes a top model (both possible) I see her back in action by 2022.

  • JohnnyTD · June 12, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    “I see her back in action by 2022.”

    I hope you’re right, if there’s a will there’s often a way. The protein absorption problem can maybe fixed with meds, and you never know, she said only 1 doctor attempted to treat her, i hope things will click and she finds a saviour like for example Valkusz did when at a tourney he met Melzer who also had to skip 2*9 months because of a shoulder condition that Valkusz had too. Melzer’s German doc fixed Valkusz’ shoulder perfectly. I hope Sofya will find the right doc too.

  • Jon King · June 12, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    Reading the biofile you did with her I was cracking up at her cheating story. She won the tiebreak 7-1 and the other girl said she was up 5-3. It sounds crazy but that is so common these days. The only remedy is the ref tells them to replay the match starting from when they last agreed on the score. Some of these junior girls will cheat so much it is mind blowing. Not just a point here or there….literally lose a set 2-6 and go to the score changer and flip it so it looks like they won 6-2.

    My kid played a much older girl once. She kept winning the set and the older girl just said “No, its still 5-4. No its still 6-5”. At one point I calculated my girl was actually up about 10 games to 4, yet the older girl kept saying the game count was different.

    Finally the ref got fed up and stood there until they finished the match.

  • Winston Smith · June 15, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    A little inside information:
    Many “juniors” from overseas may actually be a few years older than their purported age.
    This is fairly common, and Miss S. From Russia is widely rumored to be a few years older than reported. Big difference between 17 and 19, especially when playing junior events.
    It’s very easy to change your age overseas.
    Zhuk may be older than reported, beating legitimate juniors is much different than pros,

    In USTA Intermountain there was girl who mopped up in the 12s top 20 in the country. Looked like a full grown woman!
    Clearly was a few years older than reported.
    In our section we have never had to produce an official age certification.
    Now, still in 18s, she’s basically nothing.
    I’m skeptical of any foreign juniors who are age group champions, including the Chinese girls. They rarely pan out in the pros.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 15, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    Winston it’s a fact Sharapova is 3 years older than her given DOB. Her boxing coach at age 12 revealed it, she said she was 9 when she was taking boxing lessons but in her book she put a photo of the boxing coach and her training and said she was 9 but the coach told me he remember she said she was 12. So she is 35 not 32. I’m sure many players fudged their DOBs. I posted the article here back in April or May.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 15, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    Winston, I’ve even heard of a case of a girl going back to Russian and then coming back to Florida with a new age, new hair color, new name! Pretty sure there are many fake news DOBs for foreign juniors. Look in the Sharapova book, there is a photo with her boxing coach Harold Wilen.

  • Winston Smith · June 16, 2020 at 3:38 am

    The way the fake DOB May apply in Zhuk’s situation is the apparent disconnect between being a top junior and having made such an impact as a 14 year old in ITF events. Unrealistic artificial expectations. Sharapova winning Wimbledon at “17” is much less remarkable given what is now widely known. A kid we know who was playing ITF (junior) events told me that having passports with ages a couple years younger is widespread among Europeans. No penalties only upside. I wonder how many of these kids end up playing NCAA D1 tennis as “20-21 year old” freshmen, taking spots on rosters from Americans. The coaches claim US kids are just not good enough! I’m sure they know and benefit ($) from a bit of under the table action from their foreign recruits. Not a lot of honesty in the leadership of this sport, as I have come to realize.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 16, 2020 at 6:14 am

    Winston. Very possible Zhuk could be 22 23 or even 24 and not 20. Would explain why she has given up. Maybe she was really 18 not 15 when she won junior Wimbledon.



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