Dream becomes reality for Illini women’s tennis’ Louise Kwong
April 22, 2015
Louise Kwong has grown up around tennis. The sophomore for the Illinois women’s tennis team started playing the game when she was five and began standing out around the age of 13 in her hometown of Toronto, Ontario.
At that age she won the Canadian Nationals and placed fifth in the Junior Orange Bowl — an international tournament for junior tennis players.
Following her success, Kwong was ranked as a top-five junior player for the rest of her junior career in Canada.
She saw her childhood friend Genie Bouchard — who she trained with — climb up the world rankings. Bouchard currently sits at No. 7 in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings — professional tennis’ top level.
Kwong saw another of her friends get selected to participate in the World Summer Universiade of the International University Sport Federation (FISU) games two years ago in Russia.
At that time Kwong set a personal goal for herself: She wanted to find international success like her peers. She wanted to be selected to attend the next FISU games.
Earlier this month, Kwong’s dreams became a reality.
She was selected to represent Team Canada — along with Jena Cheng (University of Utah) and Evangeline Repic (University of Tennessee) — this summer in Gwangju, South Korea, for the 28th FISU games.
While she received a letter from Team Canada asking if she was interested — which she was — back in January, Kwong never imagined that her name would be selected from a pool of over a thousand candidates.
When Kwong was notified of her selection, she essentially thought she was being pranked.
“I was actually sitting in class doing an exam review with (Alexis Casati), and I just re-read the email over and over again because I thought it was some sort of spam email,” Kwong said. “I was really excited, but I didn’t respond for like three days because I wasn’t sure if they accidently sent it to me.”
Kwong was selected based on her collegiate achievement and ranking both nationally and in the NCAA. She holds a 26-13 record in dual matches, and 22-11 combined doubles record in her time at Illinois.
The fact that Tennis Canada — a member of the International Tennis Federation — still follows Kwong’s career came as a pleasant surprise to her.
“It’s definitely a big thing for me, just because you would think Tennis Canada would lose touch once you go to college because they focus so much on the juniors,” Kwong said. “It’s nice to know that they still follow my results and see how I am progressing.”
The members of Tennis Canada are not the only ones who noticed Kwong’s progression: Illinois head coach Michelle Dasso has seen great improvements in her game.
“(I’m) super excited for her, because she’s improved so much,” Dasso said. “When I went over to Canada to recruit her, I obviously saw a lot in her, but the difference is really night and day.”
Dasso said that when she initially recruited Kwong, what impressed her most — and still does to this day — was Kwong’s personality.
“Silent Killer” is what Dasso labeled Kwong — in reference to her game — and added that she excels on and off of the court.
“I don’t think people realize how competitive she is, because she’s such a nice person and she’s not high maintenance,” Dasso said. “She hates to lose, and I think she was so excited to be selected for that reason.”
Assistant coach Evan Clark has seen the same competitiveness in Kwong, and feels that playing in the FISU games this summer will greatly benefit her game.
“It’s always a special thing when you can represent your country in anything that you’re doing,” said Clark. “It’s a really neat opportunity for her because she’s going to be playing people from all over the world at a really high level, so that experience that she’ll gain will be great and she’ll bring it back to here.”
Clark also acknowledged that Kwong representing Team Canada this summer will be great exposure for the Illini.
From a recruiting perspective, building upon a legacy and becoming a household name in the tennis world, which is what Kwong is doing, will be a huge selling point to recruits. However, Kwong is not focused on building her legacy.
While being selected to play in the FISU games — which are second only to the Olympics in terms of international team competition — is a great individual honor, Kwong is more excited to suit up for Canada than to be recognized for her individual efforts.
“It’s definitely more important to be representing my country,” said Kwong. “I haven’t traveled out of North America in a while representing Tennis Canada.”
The future is bright for Kwong, who Clark called one of the most coachable student-athletes that he’s ever worked with.
Just like she set the goal of making the FISU games during her time in college, Kwong has set another, much more difficult goal in regards to her future.
Kwong hopes to eventually turn pro after her time at the University of Illinois is up.
“We’ll see how that goes,” Kwong said. “Hopefully I’ll have a shot at it.”