Even when she’s at her lowest, when she can’t seem to find a way to win on the Women’s Tennis Association tour or various injuries drag her down, Nicole Gibbs needs to find a silver lining in it all.
Though she’s never been afraid to voice her opinion on societal or political topics that are close to her heart — something she’s become known for in the tennis world — she doesn’t have much a choice but to look at the glass half-full when it comes to her career.
As one of two players featured on the Tennis Channel’s multi-platform content series, “My Tennis Life,” Gibbs is asked to frequently update fans with — among other things — short videos, blog posts and social media updates about her life as a pro tennis player.
Living a life for the world to see is a double-edged sword in Gibbs’ case. It only increases her exposure and gives fans an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at a budding career. But she admits it can feel invasive at times, and who would enjoy talking about failures?
But the 24-year-old believes she’s been able to “reflect” on certain aspects her life and career, which she considers a good thing.
“I think it causes me to reflect on the challenging times and to spin it in a way that’s positive, because nobody wants to read, ‘My life sucks and I keep losing,’ Gibbs said. “It forces me just that extra bit to find positives in the low moments.”
Despite setbacks after her run to the third round of the Australian Open, Gibbs — the top-seeded player at the Southern Lifestyle Development Classic in Baton Rouge — seemingly has a positive outlook for the rest of her year in the sport.
Owning a No. 124 world ranking but with a 5-12 record this year, Gibbs is skipping out on the grasscourt season, including Wimbledon, and getting a head start on the hardcourt calendar.
Beginning in late July, the North American hard court season, also known as the U.S. Open Series, leads to the U.S. Open in New York. By the time the major event rolls around in late August, Gibbs hopes to be healthy and playing her best tennis on the hard courts, where she’s most comfortable.
“I’m just really happy to be back on hard courts right now,” said Gibbs, a four-time national champion at Stanford from 2010-13. “This is my favorite surface. I feel so comfortable here. I think it gives me a really good feeling to be in this atmosphere again.”
“That’s where I spent the majority of my career playing tennis matches,” Gibbs continued. “Especially in college, (where) we don’t get much surface change. We don’t play on clay; we don’t play on grass.”
Though the prize money is low in the ITF Pro Circuit event held at LSU, it is still important for her because she can build ranking points in order to get back into the top 100, where she feels she belongs.
Gibbs won her first match in the Southern Lifestyle Development Classic main draw Wednesday, defeating Allie Kiick in straight sets 6-0, 6-1. She’ll play fellow American Kennedy Shaffer in the second round of the tournament.
As tough a decision as it was, Gibbs and her coach believed the grasscourt season presented a greater risk of re-aggravating previous injuries, including injuries to her knee, shoulder and wrist this year. Most recently, she suffered an adductor injury playing on clay courts at the French Open, where she was eliminated in the third round of the qualifying draw.
“But everything is feeling as close to 100 percent as it has,” Gibbs said, “so I’m feeling really optimistic about how I’m going to be able to compete this week.”