Game. Set. Match.
Sixteen-year-old Maria Kogarova is a rising star, not only on the tennis court, but also the classroom, musical stage and various other venues. However, one of her proudest accomplishments thus far in her promising career was being awarded the Billie Jean King Junior Award at the CityParks Tennis Benefit, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, where Kogarova met several female tennis legends, including King.
“The experience was amazing. I got to have dinner with Billy Jean King and met Sarah Virginia Wade,” said Kogarova. “It was the best day ever. If there is top moment in my life so far, it was that.” She received the prestigious award for being recognized as the best representative of CityParks’ summer program, which is one of the largest municipal tennis programs in the country and provides free tennis citywide to children.
Kogarova attributes much of her tennis success to the organization. “CityParks taught me most of the mental aspect of how to play tennis and new skills I couldn’t learn before. I feel like I have evened out all my skills over the years,” she said.
However, her passion for tennis began long before she joined CityParks in 2009. “I have been playing tennis since I was around four years old,” she said. “There’s a tennis park around my house and I used to go there and see others play tennis. Then I realized I wanted to do it too.” Soon, she started taking lessons with one of coaches there.
Before long, Kogarova was participating in tournaments all over the city. One of her favorite on-the-court moments was an extremely taxing tennis marathon on Long Island. “There was one tournament I was in when I was 12 years old where I had to play four matches in a row. I didn’t win the tournament, but I won three out of the four matches,” she said.
The Brooklyn resident has not only made an impact on the court through her play, but also her singing ability, as she has performed the National Anthem before a U.S. Open match. “I was 11 years old at the time. That was great. I was able to walk down the hallway of Arthur Ashe Stadium where all tennis players are before they play matches. It was really fun.”
In addition to tennis and singing, Kogarova has many hobbies. “I also love swimming,” she told this paper. “I also do some dancing in school as well as acting in any musical.”
She currently attends Beacon High School in Manhattan and hopes to attend Cornell University when she graduates. Other than tennis, she is looking at a career in science. “I just love learning about different diseases, human anatomy, and the whole aspect of learning about what’s on this Earth,” Kogarova said. “It’s fun.”
Her main advice to aspiring tennis players is to be open to learning. “Just listen to what your coach tells you. At times, some things I was told I thought were ridiculous and didn’t make sense,” she said. But, she stressed, “They know better.”