Feb. 1, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Hadley Berg’s college tennis career reads like a feel-good movie. The senior marketing and management major from Greenbrae, Calif., is a former walk-on who worked her way into the lineup early in her career and has now ascended to the top singles spot for the No. 15 Gamecocks this season while also garnering All-American and ITA Scholar Athlete honors along the way. Berg admits it wasn’t always a goal to play at the top of the lineup, and she just wanted to help the team win wherever she played.
“I didn’t look too far into the future coming in as a freshman,” Berg said. “I just put my head down and went to work. Having that ‘process’ mentality that the coaches instill in us from day one helped a lot. You just don’t think too much about it, and you work as hard as you can and see where it can get you.”
“She could have gone to a lot of other places, so we were really excited to get her,” said South Carolina head coach Kevin Epley. “She had a juniors ranking that was decent coming in, but it wasn’t anything that you thought she was going to be able to compete with some of the top juniors in the world. Her game has really come together. She had a lot of foundations coming in, and she has committed to it and put it all together.
“She’s a great kid. She’s been a hard worker all along who’s worked her way up through the lineup. She played at No. 4 through No. 6 (singles) most of the time that she’s played here. She’s always had a good record. This year, she made an ascent and has been winning at No. 1.”
Berg ranks in the top ten in program history for singles wins and combined wins, and has a chance to become the fourth Gamecock to win 100 singles matches. She led the team in singles and doubles wins last year playing in different spots in the lineup, but she isn’t fazed by the records or accolades.
“What we stress most is the team wins, so I never really think about that side of it,” Berg said. “When I win, it will help the team win. That’s the biggest goal for us; how we can get those four points on the board.”
We’re more confident and believe in ourselves. We’re dreaming big this year!
Berg earned ITA All-American honors in doubles in 2016, and she is a three-time ITA Scholar Athlete off the court, for which she is equally humble.
“It takes a semester or two to get used to doing your work on the road and time management is a huge thing that I finally learned,” Berg laughed.
As for moving to the top spot in the lineup, Berg doesn’t worry about where she plays because she knows how challenging it is to crack the top six spots in the lineup with all of the talent on the team.
“We’re all so similar on our team, and there’s really not a big difference between every girl on our team, one through ten,” Berg said. “Getting the experience the last three years and playing a ton of matches has helped. Getting wins last year and in the fall really helped me get comfortable playing higher in the lineup.
“It’s a good thing for us that every day you are playing people that can be playing at No. 1 and winning at No. 1. We’re all pushing each other to get better. There’s really not a huge difference between any of us.”
“We have a lot of good players,” Epley added. “She started getting some good results. She had a lot of wins last year and that really gave her some confidence. Whether she stays there, we take it day by day, and we don’t put too much pressure on her.”
Berg has enjoyed success in both singles and doubles for the Gamecocks.
“Coming into college, I would have said I really liked doubles more, but over the years, I’ve really learned to love singles more,” Berg said. “They’re completely different. I love the lighter aspect of doubles and playing with someone. I’ve learned to love the competitiveness of singles.”
Last season, Berg and Paige Cline advanced to the round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament Doubles Championships after advancing to the quarterfinals the year before.
“We balance each other out pretty well,” Berg said of playing with Cline. “We can joke around on the court, but when we know we need to get work done, we know what we’re going to do.”
After the team reached the Sweet 16 at the NCAA Tournament last year, Berg sees even bigger things ahead for the Gamecocks.
“We gained three incredible freshmen, so on paper I think we can have an incredible year,” Berg said “We’re more confident and believe in ourselves. We’re dreaming big this year!”
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