Guided by faith, Alycia Parks is gearing up for a breakout season in 2023

Alycia Parks was ready to wrap up her season and kick off the offseason at the start of November. But the 21-year-old Atlanta native just couldn’t shake the disappointment of seeing her ranking fall outside the Top 150. So she laced up her shoes and hopped on a plane overseas.

A month later, Parks won the biggest title of her career at last week’s WTA 125 at the Crèdit Andorrà Open to break into the Top 100 for the first time.

Parks moves past Peterson to win Andorra, break Top 100

“I set a goal earlier this year to be Top 100 by summer,” Parks told WTA Insider. “It took me a little longer. I gave it an extra push up to Midland because Midland was going to be my last tournament. I was so close to breaking the Top 100 and then 89 points fell off.

“I thought, ‘No, I have to climb back up.’ Let me go overseas and try to give it an extra push.”

“I broke the Top 100 the day before the Australian Open main draw closed.”

Photos: Top 100 breakthroughs in 2022

Parks’ Top 100 debut was a meaningful reward for her late-season surge, which began in Ostrava. Armed with a big serve that excels on indoor hard courts – her favorite surface – Parks came through qualifying ranked world No. 144 and went on to score back-to-back wins over Karolina Pliskova, beating the former No. 1 in the first set , and earned her first Top 10 win over Maria Sakkari to reach her first WTA quarterfinal. She lost to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova, but won the doubles title with Caty McNally.

Ostrava: Park edges Sakkari in three-set nail biter for first Top 10 win

2022 Ostrava

It’s been a wild week for Parks, who was minutes away from missing her flight from Italy.

“Usually when things start getting rocky for me, I know something good is about to happen because it’s just God testing me,” Parks said.

“When I went to Ostrava, I was at peace. When I’m at peace, I have a clear mind. Something clicked for me. I loved the feeling of how I played Ostrava, so I said, I have to remember this I took those moments and brought it into the other tournaments.”

With his season-ending momentum, 2023 is poised to be Parks’ breakout season. Get to know the great American who once served as Serena Williams’ body double and has a story that sounds eerily familiar.

She knew she wanted to be a professional tennis player from the start

Parks’ father Michael, who has also coached her throughout her career, is a former professional basketball player. Parks is 17 months younger than her sister Mikayla, and the two athletic sisters found their way to tennis via a serendipitous moment with their mother, Erica.

“In elementary school, I made all A’s, and every time we made all A’s, my parents took us to the toy store. It took me an hour to pick something. My mom said, ‘Hurry up or I’ll pick something for you.

“She just looked down and it was two tennis rackets and three tennis balls. She knew me and my sister liked to play outside and we had a tennis court in our neighborhood. She took us to the tennis court and she read her book , and she just heard the ball going back and forth, me and my sister just kept getting together. She called my dad and she said, I think they’re pretty good at tennis.”

Parks played every sport under the sun as a child, but it was the individual nature of tennis that attracted her. Win or lose, she wants it on her shoulders.

“I wanted to be a professional tennis player at seven years old. When I first hit the ball, I knew, okay, I want to be a pro at this.

She skipped the junior circuit to maximize her pro potential

Parks played only eight junior tournaments and did not play junior Slams, a decision designed with the long term in mind.

“We didn’t go the junior route because at that point I was growing through the juniors. I would always have knee problems and my dad wanted to prevent injuries. Just train and get ready for the pros. So we did and here I am now.

“My sister also played, so we pushed each other. We didn’t think of the competition that was out there because we were always competing with each other. When you have a sister that you always want to beat and vice versa, I think that puts you in another element.

“So when I got on tour and the pros, [the level] wasn’t really a surprise.”

She got to play with Serena and Venus Williams at the US Open

A pair of athletic sisters, coached by their father, who honed their skills against each other on the public courts? Parks knows her tennis story sounds familiar.

“When I saw King Richardthere were many scenes [that felt familiar]. That’s how we did it too. It was so strange because it was so similar.”

As a teenager, she was even cast as Serena Williams’ body double in a Gatorade commercial.

“It felt good at the US Open that I got to play with both of them. Especially Serena because I look up to Serena. She’s tennis GED. What can you do but look up to her? She’s literally tennis. “

She’s not here for handouts

“One day I made a comment to my mother: ‘When will it be easy?’ She said, “Oh, it’s never going to be easy. It never gets easier. If you want something, you have to work for it.”

“So that told me, OK, handouts are not for you. You have to work for what you want.”

She is a true believer that everything happens for a reason

After starting the year ranked No. 237, Parks described his 2022 season as “Me vs. Me.” Much of the season felt like a battle with oneself to find the mindset and style of play that would produce consistent results. But she never lost faith.

“I always do a hashtag, #WalkByFaith, on Instagram. For example, last week when the USTA did the whole points hunt for the Australian Open wild card, Caty won the wild card, but she ended up breaking the Top 100 and didn’t have to I was two points behind Taylor Townsend to receive the wild card.

“Something told me to come to Europe and play the 125s. I reached the semi-finals in Valencia [an ITF W80] and then came here and won it.

“Maybe that’s why God didn’t allow me to win Valencia, because he probably said, OK, Alycia, you have ITF titles. I know how bad you want this, but next week you will win your first WTA 125 title, something you’ve never done before. You won ITF titles and that’s sweet, but a WTA title, that’s a step up.

“That’s the way I looked at it. So when I say walk by faith or have a little bit of faith, that proves it.”

She has big goals for 2023

“If I keep playing the way I’m doing now, I should go through draws pretty freely. I see myself Top 10 next year, which is pretty high, but it’s definitely doable. So I think Top 10 next year is a goal for me.”

Parks counts another 21-year-old, No. 1 Iga Swiatek, and another American, Sloane Stephens, as players who inspire her.

“I love the way Iga plays. I’m pretty close to Sloane Stephens. We always have conversations and she always says something positive.”

She is looking forward to rubbing elbows with them on the headlining tour next year.

“I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to play the main draws because everyone knows it’s a grind coming through qualities. I think that’s what I’m most excited about because when I’m well rested, is there, it’s hard to stop me.

“So next year is up from here.”

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