Flexibility is the key: not flexibility in the figurative sense, but literal muscle flexibility.
“She does a lot to her body when she plays a match, and so it’s important that she keep it flexible and keep it strong, so that she can maintain her high level (of play) throughout the season,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster.
The coach described how Anderson had to work most of her summer trying to recover from a back injury sustained toward the end of her freshman season, and to strengthen both her back and improve her flexibility.
“Her flexibility had a lot to do with why she injured herself. So she worked a lot on her body – her posture, her abs, her core,” Sampras Webster said.
An arduous summer of physical training has paid dividends. Sampras Webster said that she believes Anderson’s play now is even better than it was last year, during her breakout freshman season. She is now the No. 6 singles player in NCAA women’s tennis.
“She’s competing a lot better this year than she did last year, and probably more comfortable than she was last year,” Sampras Webster said. Anderson’s coach had an optimistic attitude about the injury, admitting that it probably had some positive outcomes.
“Like for any athletes, injuries are tough but I think it was kind of a wake-up call, because she really didn’t take very good care of her body. She got away with a lot, being so young, and it caught up to her,” Sampras Webster said.
However, if Anderson’s current success is even partially due to her improved flexibility, her injury may have been a blessing in disguise. She is now 16-0 on the season, and does not appear ready to slow down.
Freshman teammate Kyle McPhillips piled on the praise for Anderson’s excellent play. She attributed some of the team’s current successes to Anderson’s achievements.
“It’s great having Robin around. Any time there’s any awesome player like her on a team, she makes others better,” McPhillips said.
Anderson, however, deferred this praise to the team as a whole.
She referred to the chemistry within the team and the bonds between the players as a large part of why UCLA has been successful.
“This team, we’re all really close and so we feed off each other. It makes it so much more enjoyable to play when you have your teammates cheering for you,” Anderson said.
Whether it is the flexibility, or the encouragement of her teammates cheering her on, the Bruins hope that the key to her success will stick around a little longer as she builds upon her winning streak.
Email Elder at firstname.lastname@example.org.