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The Girl Raising a Racket in the World of Tennis: Maddie Jessup

Once the game started, the rest of the world faded away and Maddie Jessup only focused on the tennis ball and winning. This was the qualifying match determining if Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) could get promoted to Group 1 at the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup. Although Maddie did not expect to play the final double match that day, she ended up winning and securing her team a place in next year’s tournament. 

18-year-old Maddie, the junior player, along with a group of four others from the Taiwanese team participated in the Kuala Lumpur Billie Jean King Cup this year. “The junior is there for the easier matches and to fill in here and there if the other players get tired… so I wasn’t expecting to play as much as I did.” But when two of Maddie’s teammates were unexpectedly injured, she was required to step up and play for them. Out of the eight matches Maddie played, she won all but one. She competed in both singles and doubles and won a crucial  6-3, 7-5 victory against Erin Routliffe, a New Zealand player. 

Tennis has been a part of Maddie’s life since she was three years old. She began playing matches nationally for the United States and went on to play her first international match in France at nine years of age. Now, tennis is Maddie’s passion and professional goal. She chose to be homeschooled for most of her high school years so that she could focus on attending tournaments and getting recruited to a university team. Although she was bombarded with recruitment phone calls and emails, the decision to commit to Princeton at the age of 16 was a “no-brainer” for Maddie since the team felt “like a family” to her when she visited the campus.

Maddie believes that “it’s baby steps; the short-term goals are the ones that get you there”.

This year Maddie and her mom made the decision for Maddie to gain Taiwanese citizenship, a stressful, three-month process, and begin playing for Taiwan. Even though Maddie has a Taiwanese passport now, growing up in the United States sets her apart from her teammates and players in Taiwan culturally. But in the face of this transition and acclimation, Maddie stays positive and emphasises the bond between herself and her teammates and the friendships created under the pressures and anxiety of matches. “It was uncomfortable at first but when I came here and started meeting people, I could see that they started warming up to me. I understand that they see me as an outsider and I get where they’re coming from. Once I started talking to people it felt more comfortable and like home. Especially after I went to the Billie Jean King Cup with the other girls, they were super welcoming and helped me out. It felt like a really close community in Taiwan and that’s something you don’t get in the United States.”

Maddie Jessup - 8
18-year-old Maddie, the junior player, along with a group of four others from the Taiwanese team participated in the Kuala Lumpur Billie Jean King Cup this year.

Many posts and articles highlight Maddie’s multiple victories and achievements and she acknowledges that it may seem all sunshine and rainbows, but it is not. “Every day I am tired, every day. It is a love-hate relationship. A lot of the days I have to force myself to get up and go [to practice] because most days you are not going to be like ‘Oh, I want to go train’.” Maddie’s practice schedule includes every day except Sunday. She practices in the mornings and in the evenings to make time in the middle of the day for school work. When asked what gets her through such a gruelling routine, Maddie says “Working towards something and striving to become a better version of myself are what motivate me.”

When it comes to her future goals, Maddie’s eye does not leave the ball. To “break the top 100 in the Women’s Tennis Association Pro and play the Grand Slam” are two of them. Having played all the junior Grand Slams besides the US Open, Maddie recounts playing beside inspirational players and recognizes the hard work and effort required to achieve her own long-term goals. She stresses that “it’s baby steps; the short-term goals are the ones that get you there”. 

With Princeton on the horizon, Maddie is nervous but also excited for the future. While describing a coach and team that felt like a family to her the last time she visited the campus, the smile doesn’t leave her face. 

By Katharine Osman
An aspiring journalist and passionate writer keen on reporting and investigating an array of topics.

Photo credit: 李琢 from the 

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