WT: Bertrand Serves a Leading Role for Commodore Tennis
Feb. 6, 2007
One individual who has heavily contributed to this trend is Taka Bertrand, a junior on the women's tennis team who is quickly becoming one of the most accomplished athletes in Vanderbilt history.
The 2005-06 SEC Player of the Year is coming off an impressive sophomore season that included an undefeated conference performance, three wins over Top 30 opponents and a peak national ranking of No. 19 by the ITA.
Though the No. 17 Commodores have fallen to 2-5 this season after tough losses to No. 1 Stanford and No. 12 VCU, it has benefited from Bertrand's dominating singles' performances against Louisville and East Tennessee as well as her upset of Notre Dame's Colleen Riley, ranked No. 31 nationally. Bertrand has been extremely effective in doubles as well, partnering with freshmen Hannah Blatt and Catherine Newman to form two tough doubles tandems.
In less than two weeks she will add one more accolade to her list of accomplishments when she is named the Female Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. The award will acknowledge her talent, dedication, and achievements as a tennis player at Vanderbilt, another sign that through hard work and perseverance Bertrand has quietly become a true leader for the Commodores.
A native of Great Falls, Virginia, Bertrand first picked up a racket at the age of five when she was introduced to the world of sports. Tennis, along with soccer, basketball, and softball quickly became her favorite hobbies as she surrounded herself with athletics. She maintained what she considers a "normal life" growing up, attending public school and enjoying the benefits of a good education.
It was not until the age of 12 that Bertrand began playing in national tournaments and traveling around the world, an experience that brought her mixed feelings as an adolescent.
"It was fun traveling and playing against girls from all over", Bertrand says. "I knew that I was getting better and that with tennis I had many great opportunities. I got to play in Canada, Central America, and Asia, all unbelievable experiences. At the same time, I missed playing soccer and other team sports that I had played my entire life."
As the traveling increased so did the pressures, and at 16 she almost reached her breaking point. After a tough loss in a tournament in California, Bertrand seriously considered stepping away from the game.
"I wondered if I was making a mistake not playing other sports, missing school and spending less time with friends," she explains. "There are so many ups and downs with tennis that you will never experience constant success, and you must be driven enough to push through and keep working at it. At times however, this seemed like an unrealistic idea to grasp."
After a win at the Peachtree Tennis Classic in Georgia however, many of her doubts subsided. She went on to win five other finals she competed in and continued to improve her game. Leading Langley High School to two district and regional championships, she made it to the state semifinals her senior year and won the 18s at the National Open. Bertrand continued her success at Vanderbilt where she was named SEC Freshman of the Year with an impressive 8-3 conference performance and a 20-6 record overall.
"We have a great squad this year, returning everyone with the addition of two talented freshmen," Bertrand says. "The past two years we have finished second in the SEC, and with our depth and chemistry I think we have a great shot to win it this time around."
Though she will likely deny having any active leadership role on the team, most will admit that her modesty hides the true impact she has had on Vanderbilt athletics.
"I try and play as hard as I can every time I go out there", Bertrand says. "Amanda Fish is our leader and our captain - I guess if I lead at all, it's with my actions."
With regards to her upcoming award from the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Bertrand states simply, "I am in disbelief."
"Looking at the list of names of former honorees such as Peyton Manning and Chamique Holdsclaw, I can't believe they would even put me in that class," she describes. "I am just very honored."
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