Susanna Rantanen has seen the world like few high school seniors.
Born in Singapore, Rantanen lived for five years in Hong Kong until her dad’s job in business moved the family back to Naperville when she was a sophomore. She’s traveled all over Asia and every summer visits Finland, where her father Esko was born.
“It’s good to experience different cultures,” said Rantanen, who attends Waubonsie Valley.
These days Rantanen’s home away from home is the tennis courts.
Making huge strides, Rantanen has gone from hoping to just make the tennis team in tryouts as a junior to No. 1 singles this year.
Hard work seems to be her favorite playing partner; Rantanen hit balls for four hours every day during the summer at Five Star Tennis Center in Plainfield when she wasn’t playing at USTA events. She has not taken a week off since last year, to the point Waubonsie coach Phil Galow had to kick her out of practice to give her a break.
“She looked at me like I was the craziest person in the world. She does not like resting,” Galow said. “She is the consummate tennis learner.”
Funny thing, it took a fortunate bounce for Rantanen to end up on the Waubonsie courts — if you want to call it fortunate.
Rantanen has played tennis recreationally throughout her life, but when she arrived at Waubonsie two years ago volleyball was her sport of choice.
She was a defensive specialist her sophomore year, but was cut first day of varsity tryouts the next fall.
Rantanen went out the door, walked out to the tennis courts and the rest is history.
“I can still vividly recall when I first heard her hitting shots,” Galow said, “and telling her ‘Why’d you waste all that time with volleyball?’ She’s been working hard for me ever since.”
Galow is amazed how far Rantanen has come in less than two years of high school tennis, but she continues to polish her game.
Hard-hitting and comfortable on the baseline with a serve that has “grown by leaps and bounds,” Rantanen is still learning to read shots, and working to become more patient during long rallies.
“I get a little too anxious for the point to get over,” Rantanen said. “I try to get the point over quickly and sometimes make an unforced error.”
One of Rantanen’s greatest assets is that she does not shy away from anybody.
Two matches over the last three weeks are indicative of Rantanen’s marked improvement.
Against Rosary’s Grace Goheen, a girl who beat Rantanen 6-0, 6-2 last year, Rantanen won this time in a third-set tiebreaker. Rantanen needed three sets to beat West Aurora’s Carley Frauenhoff last year, but this time dispatched her 6-0, 6-0.
“I’ve seen her get better and better and progressing week to week. That’s all you can ask for,” Galow said. “If you play hard good things are going to happen for you.”