Denise Muresan grew up dreaming of playing in a Grand Slam tennis event, and she’s one step closer to doing just that after winning a U.S. Open National Playoffs Midwest Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Decatur on June 23.
The 2007 Stevenson graduate defeated Lyons’ graduate Alex Chatt 6-0, 6-3 to win the 32-woman tournament. She lost just six total games in her four matches, but she still has a long road ahead of her.
The 24-year old Muresan, who trains at Racquet Club of Lake Bluff, advances to the U.S. Open National Playoffs, a 16-player tournament held August 15-18 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. A win there would give her a wild card into the 2014 U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament held Aug. 19-22.
“As a 4-year-old kid I always dreamed of being a professional tennis player, and I’ve always wanted to play in a Grand Slam, but I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself,” Muresan said. “I just want to enjoy the ride.”
Muresan has already had an incredible journey.
She won the IHSA girls tennis state championship in 2006 as a junior and went on to star at Michigan, where she was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. She holds the all-time Michigan record for most wins (111) and was an ITA All-American in both her junior and senior seasons in Ann Arbor.
Muresan graduated from Michigan in 2011, majoring in pre-med. Dealing with some nagging injuries at the time, she wasn’t certain if she wanted to go pro or enroll in medical school. She eventually decided to try a professional career in 2013.
It was a very difficult adjustment from what she was used to during high school and college.
“There’s nothing greater than playing for a team and that’s been the hardest thing to adjust to,” Muresan said. “In high school and college you have a lot taken care of for you, but when you go on tour, you have to do it all alone.”
Muresan has been traveling the country playing in WTA tournaments with prize pools. It’s not always a glamorous life.
“I’m lucky if I break even on tournaments,” she said. “I’m lucky to have the support of my parents, but I’m looking for sponsors. It’s definitely stressful. Just figuring out your tennis schedule is difficult, but you have to find the cheapest flights and find housing. But it’s something you get accustomed to.”
She lowered her worldwide singles ranking from No. 1,053 in 2012 to No. 573 in 2013, and she’s presently ranked No. 436. She’s also ranked No. 367 in doubles.
Her father and coach, Nick Muresan, sees a bright future.
“With God’s help, I hope Denise can make it into the top 100,” Nick Muresan said. “But her way to make it as a top 100 player is very slow because of the lack of money. She’s been able to get her ranking down to [No. 436] and she’s had no support from the USTA.”
Denise Muresan will continue to hit the road in the weeks leading up to the U.S. Open National Playoffs.
She’s scheduled to play tournaments in Kentucky, California and Canada over the next month, and Nick Muresan thinks she can continue to make strides and lower her ranking.
“She sacrifices everything for tennis,” he said. “She’s maintained her body and is very mentally strong, and she’s going to make it.”