Junior Spotlight: Siem Woldeab
“Embrace the Clay” might have been a good motto for Siem (pronounced Sam) Woldeab, during the week playing in his first USTA Clay Court Nationals in Delray Beach, Fla.
The 17-year-old from La Mesa immediately took a liking to the greenish Har-Tur surface making the transition from the familiar hard-court surface he favors like so many top juniors growing up in Southern California.
Woldeab finished third at the Clay Courts, losing to eventual champion and University of Notre Dame-bound Axel Nefve in the semifinals, 6-2, 7-6.
“It was tough at first,” admitted Woldeab, whose parents came to the United States from Eritrea (East Africa), of playing on the clay. “I liked it because everything was slower and the matches were longer. You had to time to figure out and change things if you needed to.”
The 6-foot-4 Woldeab is a senior-to-be at Helix Charter School in La Mesa who recently turned 17. He started his summer strong by winning the 116th annual SCTA Junior Sectionals at Los Caballeros in Fountain Valley. He beat Omni Kumar in the final, 6-2, 6-4.
“It was pretty cool finally winning my first Sectionals,” the top-seeded Woldeab said. “I played Sectionals in all the age divisions and so to finally win was amazing.”
Woldeab has played his last SCTA junior event, and recently competed at the USTA Hardcourt Nationals in Kalamazoo, Mich. He hopes to play more ITF Juniors and Futures events during his senior year, and is being recruiting by all the major Pac-12 schools.
He said he loves the energy playing in a tennis-mecca like Kalamazoo. “There are so many fans that come out to watch that aren’t even tennis fans,” he said. “They just come out to support the event. It’s really fun to be there.”
Woldeab said his improved serve has helped him earn better results this summer. “I’m able to get a lot of free points off it,” he said. “I think my forehand has also really improved.”
Woldeab started playing tennis with his older brother Senay shortly after his family settled in San Diego. He learned the game from his coach Stan Jefferson who teaches at Mountain View Park across the street from Woldeab’s house.
Woldeab takes his school work seriously and wants to continue taking business classes once he gets to college. Like any teenager, he spends his free time playing video games, but also likes walking his Chihuahua Yorkie dog named Buddy around the neighborhood.