Junior Spotlight: Salma Ewing
Years from now when 16-year-old Salma Ewing looks back on her junior tennis career, the 2017 Ojai Tennis Tournament will be at the top of the list of her great tennis moments.
But it was in the Open division – not the juniors – where Ewing has shined the last two years at the storied event; a place where all aspiring Southern California junior tennis players hope to make it all the way to finals on Sunday at Libbey Park.
A year ago, Long Beach resident Ewing beat former WTA Tour World No. 32-ranked Olga Puchkova in the first round at The Ojai in what she calls her biggest win to date. This year, Ewing used that experience to win the Women’s Open division downing Megan McCray in the singles final.
“I think the experience having played there in front of the big crowds was a huge factor,” said Ewing, adding that The Ojai quickly jumped to the top of the list as one of her favorite tournaments. “It’s just such a neat setting in the park, and everyone there is talking about tennis. The signs are up around town and when you go into Starbucks even the barista asks how you did because everyone knows there’s a tournament going on. To win such a prestigious tournament like Ojai was amazing.”
Salma’s mother Reyana still remembers the date – April 27, 2012 – when the family piled into the car and made the trek from their home in Northern California to visit The Ojai. “Salma was still at the novice level and 11 years old,” she said. “We watched the Girls’ 14s final on the lower courts, and then watched Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) win the individual Pac-12 championships. We watched Sachia Vickery play Amanda Fink in the Women’s Open Singles finals. Stevie Johnson was there, too. Those were good memories. The girls were definitely inspired by that trip. I think it is pretty cool for Salma to go from novice in 2012 to Women’s Open champion just five years later.”
Ewing comes from a tennis family as Reyana played at Georgia State, and her two siblings, older sister Vera and younger sister Mina, also play.
But Ewing didn’t start playing tennis seriously until age 10, instead choosing to compete in track and field and cross country, often times going on training runs with Reyana, who competed in marathons.
“Once she stopped doing marathons and started playing tennis more, we would just go out and hit with her,” said Ewing, who was born in Pasadena and moved to Santa Rosa in Northern California before the family settled back into the Long Beach-area three years ago.
Ewing has done her studies online at Laurel Springs School since she finished seventh grade. That allows her the time to work out at the USTA Training Center – West in Carson under the watchful eye of USTA National Coach Chris Tonz. Later in the day she attends the Southern California Tennis Academy where she hits with director Mitch Bridge, and mostly top junior boys.
“The morning is practice and the afternoon I hit with Mitch,” she said. “There are some great players, and guys that I hit with hit pretty heavy and with spin, so I think that’s been great for me.”
With a junior ITF world ranking around No. 120, Ewing is among the nation’s top high school prospects, and said her two schools of choice are Stanford and USC.
Ewing plans to compete in some USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 events in the coming weeks, traveling to the south to play in places like Sumter, S.C., Auburn, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., and Naples, Fla.
She has already played seven Pro Futures events and has three WTA world ranking points putting her on the rankings computer with a WTA world ranking around 1,200.
Ewing calls herself a casual tennis fan, who only watches the pros on T.V. when her mom has it on. She calls Andy Murray who favorite male player and tabs Serena as her top women’s player.
Ewing’s hobbies outside of tennis include horseback riding, boogey boarding in Huntington Beach and running.
She said she is undecided if she will compete in next month’s SCTA Junior Sectionals, but said with all the travel she has planned in her near future, staying close to home and trying to win yet another prestigious SoCal tournament just like she did at The Ojai, may just be the right call.
– Steve Pratt