UCLA women’s head coach Stella Sampras Webster and assistant Rance Brown have had a close-up look at future UCLA Bruins Jada Hart and Ena Shibahara the past two years as the junior-level players have won back-to-back Ojai Tennis Tournament doubles titles in the Open division in both 2014 and 2015.
Both Hart and Shibahara have signed to play for the powerhouse Bruins with the 17-year-old Hart from Colton getting the call to join the team early this coming January and eligible to play for UCLA once deal season start in February.
“It will be fun to be there the whole season,” said Hart, who is a high school student but has enough credits to graduate early. “Tennis is important to me but so is school. So it will be good to get there and get an early start.”
In fact, tennis will take a back seat this fall as Hart focuses on her studies and will not travel to many tournaments. She will still train three times a week at the USTA Training Center – West in Carson where she works with USTA national coach Adam Peterson.
But she will continue working with her personal coach Stuart Levchenko in Redondo Beach, and her father Nathan, a devoted supporter of Jada’s tennis who doesn’t like to ever miss a practice at Carson.
“He’s my main coach,” Hart said. “He’s a retired police officer so he’s able to spend the time helping me with my tennis.”
Hart and partner Alexandra Abele of Cincinnati fell in the semifinals of doubles at the USTA Girls’ 18s Hardcourt Nationals. The winner of that event earned a main draw wild card into the US Open. “It’s kind of hard to not think about having a 25 percent chance of getting into the US Open,” Hart said. “I think my partner was thinking about it a little more than I was. But it was definitely on our minds.”
Hart and Abele finished with the third-place bronze ball at Nationals. The week before, Hart helped lead the Southern California team to a title in the USTA Girls’ 18s National Team Championships.
With UCLA also adding top NorCal junior Alaina Miller of Saratoga, Calif., Hart said the Bruins will no doubt be vying for national championships for years to come.