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Jennifer Brady returns as student assistant coach while rehabilitating from injury

UCLA women’s tennis student assistant coach Jennifer Brady holds five tennis balls and a racket at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. (Courtesy of Ross Turteltaub/UCLA Athletics)

By Chloe Agas

June 10, 2024 4:24 p.m.

One phone call can change everything.

Whether it’s a job offer or an engagement announcement, phone calls often lay the groundwork for some of life’s most remarkable milestones.

For Stella Sampras Webster, an unexpected phone call earlier this year brought about a turning point in her coaching journey with UCLA women’s tennis.

“I was excited – so excited – to get that call,” Sampras Webster said. “It was just a win-win for everyone and didn’t disappoint.”

In January, professional tennis player Jennifer Brady rang Sampras Webster to share her return to UCLA – her alma mater – after knee surgery put her career on hold.

Beyond the reveal, Brady had a request for her former coach.

“The first person I called was Stella,” Brady said. “I reached out to her and I was like, ‘Hey Stella, I have to have surgery – is there any way I can also help coach the team?’”

Brady, who played for UCLA from 2013-2015, was part of the squad that captured the 2014 NCAA title – the program’s second and most recent national team championship.

Brady prepares to return an approaching tennis ball. Brady played for the Bruins from 2013-2015.(Daily Bruin file photo)

The second she stepped foot on the court in 2013, Sampras Webster recognized that Brady would remain in Westwood for just two seasons.

In both practice and matchplay, Brady’s ball-hitting finesse stood unparalleled. After her sophomore year, Brady embarked on a professional career – and managed to etch her name among the sport’s elite.

Then-No. 22 seed Brady reached the 2021 Australian Open finals against then-No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka on Feb. 20. She represented the United States as the only seeded American at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, joining tennis legends Coco Gauff and Marcos Giron.

So after injury halted her professional aspirations, Brady returned to Westwood as a student assistant coach in the spring – while simultaneously working to complete her undergraduate degree.

“Going into college coaching is something I want to pursue,” Brady said. “I would love to be at UCLA, a place that I care about a lot.”

Freshman Ahmani Guichard said having Brady as a coach was initially intimidating but quickly evolved into a blossoming relationship off the court.

“It’s nice having her around, and we’re able to go to dining halls with her,” Guichard said. “We swipe her in anytime and help her with different things – like videos for her sponsorships.”

Guichard and Brady – both Florida locals – share similarities in both their playing style and upbringings. In matchplay, both players demonstrate a level of aggression with a diverse array of striking techniques. Prior to UCLA, their prowess was made evident through appearances at junior Grand Slam tournaments including the U.S. Open and Roland Garros.

Coming to UCLA as blue-chip recruits, they both competed in the ITA All-American Championships in their inaugural seasons. Guichard showcased in singles and Brady in doubles play.

“Watching her play back in 2020, it is inspiring to see how this is her game style. It’s similar to mine,” Guichard said.

Moving across the country for college fostered a sense of growth and maturity for Brady, preparing her for the mental and physical challenges she would face on the pro tour.

Brady championed the principles of avoiding stubbornness and embracing new opportunities to the team. The student assistant coach provided guidance on healthy eating, physical activity and on-court behavior – all of which are essential for a pro tennis player’s routine.

Brady (right), who left UCLA to pursue a professional career after her second collegiate season, stands beside 2023 NCAA singles champion sophomore Tian Fangran (left). (Courtesy of Eric Hurd/UCLA Athletics)

During her two seasons at UCLA, Brady left an indelible mark on collegiate tennis. As a freshman, she achieved a career-high national ranking of No. 8 and upheld a 23-match win streak. In the same year, Brady became the eighth player in school history to claim a Pac-12 singles title.

She also ranked No. 1 in the nation with her doubles partner Robin Anderson. The duo captured the doubles title at the 2014 ITA All-American Championships, defeating USC’s Giuliana Olmos and Zoë Scandalis in straight sets at the final.

Brady said sharing experiences from when she was a student-athlete is not just about reliving memories – it’s about offering guidance to help her players navigate their own journeys.

UCLA women's tennis student assistant coach Jennifer Brady at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. (Courtesy of Ross Turteltaub/UCLA Athletics)

“It’s been a great few months. I can’t ask for anything more from her,” Sampras Webster said. “She embraced everything about being back on campus, and I think that was really neat to see because she was happy … I was really happy to see her be so involved during this time.”

After her coaching debut, Brady deepened her appreciation for the sport and the teamwork it requires.

“I love being on a team,” Brady said. “I love everything about being on a team, the camaraderie – it’s not just playing for yourself.”

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Chloe Agas
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