Imagine being 16, traveling the world playing tennis, yet striking a balance that allows for a somewhat normal teenage life.
That’s how it is for Logan Hansen, born and raised in Santa Monica and considered one of America’s up-and-coming junior players.
Hansen is ranked No. 2 (18 and under) in Southern California, No. 5 nationally among college prospects for 2008, and she won the Southern California Sectionals in the 18-and-under division in June, skipping the division for 16-year-olds. She has won 10 national junior tournaments.
Hansen began playing at four, played in England and France with a U.S. Tennis Association junior international team at 13 and has since played in Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic and Israel, among other countries.
Most recently, the Brentwood School junior became the first girl in that school’s history to win a CIF individual championship.
But she isn’t home-schooled like some players her age. And she doesn’t practice six hours a day like some or live at a tennis academy like many prospects her age.
“We were approached by the tennis academies when she was 13,” says Hansen’s mother Sue, herself a former college player at Florida. “But I didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. I didn’t like the odds because there are so many players trying to make it at that age.
“Many American players now follow the Eastern European model of living at the academies. We decided not to do that. We’re trying to strike a balance between tennis and school.”
Logan likes where she is.
“I’ve never felt like I wasn’t living a normal life,” she told the Mirror in an interview. “I have tennis friends and school friends. I practice two hours a day, which might sound like a lot but it isn’t compared to what some others do.
“I’m in school from 8 to 3, practice tennis from 4 to 6, then I have dinner and do homework. I’m doing well in school, but this semester I have some hard classes.”
She also sings in the school choir.
She will face other difficult decisions in a year, choosing a college and deciding whether or not to play college tennis.
“The fact is that none of the top 100 players were in college the four years,” says Sue Hansen. “The alternative is playing in more tournaments, going fully that way. Jeff Blake went to Harvard for two years and John McEnroe to Stanford for one year, but they are the exceptions. The college experience is wonderful, but it is a dilemma whether or not to do that.”
Logan is 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, with a powerful serve. She favors a baseline game and doesn’t rush the net as much as her older sister, Austin, who was good enough to receive a tennis scholarship to the University of Virginia. But Logan has shown the greater promise of the two sisters by being so efficient in the style she plays.
“She’s a strong girl and she has a hard serve,” says Sue Hansen. “She might reach the point where she wants to end points sooner, but I doubt that she would change to a serve-and-volley game.”
Says Logan: “I need to develop getting to the net.”
As Logan considers her choices in the next few years, she has accelerated her class schedule and plans to take a lighter load next year in order to play in more tournaments.
She is aware of the career of Marissa Ervin, the most recent Santa Monica junior to advance in tennis. Ervin played at Stanford, left to go on the tennis tour, reached the top 50 in the world and has returned to Stanford to earn her degree.
The Hansens are grateful that the City of Santa Monica provided tennis opportunities originally.
“We never belonged to a club,” says Sue Hansen. “The wonderful Parks and Recreation program allowed our family to play. For $60 a year we bought a pass that allowed for court time two hours a day. The girls, my husband and I played at Memorial Park and Reed Park.”
Sue Hansen is a medical librarian. Her husband, Stuart, is a general contractor who once was a sales representative for Head Racquets.
Logan Hansen is 100 percent recovered from back and wrist injuries that required her to be inactive for nearly a year.
“It was a cycle of injuries,” she said. “It started with a stress fracture in my back. Then I injured my left wrist.”
She played some matches with a cast on the wrist, doing everything right-handed and foregoing her two-handed backhand.
“Since I enjoyed playing in college, I wanted my daughters to have the opportunity to enjoy the sport,” says Sue Hansen. “I think the girls have a good balance in their lives.”
In the future, Logan Hansen might become one of America’s best women players. But it’s no cinch.
She can have a college scholarship if she wants one, and then we’ll see what the years bring.