Chala leads charge for women’s tennis team

Junior Cindy Chala seeks to improve upon her 2012-13 campaign, during which she went 15-5 in 20 singles matches for the VCU women’s tennis team. Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics.

Sterling Giles
Contributing Writer

Before she was a collegiate tennis star, before the Atlantic 10 Conference honors, before the NCAA appearance, Cindy Chala was a typical teenager from the suburban town of Versailles, located about 10 miles southwest of Paris.

Tennis was a ubiquitous sport for the Chalas. Cindy’s mother, father and older brother were all exceptional players. And at age six, it was Cindy’s turn to carry the proverbial torch.

“Tennis was serious business in my household,” Chala said.

Her father spent endless hours with her in order to improve her technique. Starting out, Chala admitted she was not very good.

“I was very clumsy as a child,” said Chala smiling. “In fact, I was very bad.”

However, as she continued to practice, Chala matured into a professional. She officially went pro at the age of 18. While Chala did play well in competition, her ailing back pains impeded her success. The pains became so severe she had to break from playing her favorite sport for an extended period of time.

During her recovery period, Chala began to weigh her options. She debated returning to professional play or going to compete at the university level.

Chala’s friends at Division I programs in the United States insisted college would be in her best interest. She would receive an education and be able play the sport she loved. After several days of contemplation, Cindy decided to choose the latter option.

For Chala, her venture into the United States was an unusual experience. She says her entire first year in America was a blur.

“It went so fast,” Chala said. “I came in the spring time and it was cold. I also remember I had trouble learning the language. But the experience was very new and exciting.”

Now, three years later, the junior has adjusted to the American lifestyle. She has established herself socially, in the classroom, and on the court.

During the course of her collegiate career, the French native has received several A-10 player of the week honors, she was named first-team all-conference in the 2012-13 season and she was named the A-10 conference’s most outstanding performer following the 2012-13 season. In addition, she qualified for singles play in the NCAA Outdoor Championships last May.

Chala was not confident in her inconsistent play despite early collegiate success. As a result, she says she grew extremely frustrated, which jeopardized her focus and caused her to experience emotional slumps.

“I used to get too hard on myself and I would get really down when I didn’t perform well,” Chala said.

Now, Chala believes the biggest asset to her game is her strong mentality. As she matured, she began to enhance her focus regardless if she was playing well or not.

The leftie declares singles matches her forté. She says she likes to use her slight, compact frame to her advantage by striking early in her matches and leaving her opponents at bay.

As one of the older members of the team, she feels she serves an advisory role to the young team. She offers advice and critiques to help her teammates excel.

As the junior looks ahead to her final season of eligibility, she says she hopes to earn a national ranking, to perform well in the A-10 tournament and to play deep into the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

The collective goals of the team for this season is to clench the A-10 title for the second consecutive year and to have a solid showing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in May.

Despite her collegiate success, Chala says she remains confident she will go professional in something other than tennis.

“Going pro (in tennis) will be too taxing on my body,” Chala said. “I’ve decided that I am either going for my master’s degree or starting my career.”

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