Risa Fukushige Finishes up Dominating Run at the ITA Cup
Skidmore sophomore Risa Fukushige ’21 competed in the 2018 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITS) Cup on Oct. 13, becoming the second person from the college to win the ITA Northeast singles titles. She finished fifth at the ITA cup, guaranteeing her All-American honors.
The impressive player started tennis at the age of 10, but Fukushige wasn’t always in love with the sport. In her personal life, Fukushige moved back to Japan, where she considered quitting the game when she encountered coaches who made her play and train at all times, even when she was injured. It was only when she arrived at Skidmore that Fukushige realized why she fell in love with tennis in the first place.
“When I got to Skidmore, my plan was to only play tennis for one semester my freshman year and quit, but towards the end of fall last year—exactly this time last year actually—I regained my confidence and saw myself returning to my old self little by little,” says Fukushige. She adds that “towards spring season, I’ve fully regained my ability, love and passion for tennis, so I think that’s why I was able to grab so many wins.”
Even with this passion, Fukushige admitted it was hard to balance school, sports, and a social life freshman year. Especially with being both a psychology major and an All-American tennis player.
“I used to choose my friends over my work no matter how much work or stress I had,” explains Fukushige. However, she has since found a way to balance all three aspects of her life and is now able to give it her all in both academic and athletic settings.
This includes the two hours that Fukushige practices per day, and said that “during practice, I give it my absolute all. I also try to go to optional hitting days if I don’t have a lot of work.”
And for Fukushige, practice pays off. When asked which win she is most proud of, she responded by describing the time she “beat a really good player from University of Mary Washington during my Spring Break tournament. I was the last one on the court and it was down to my match to determine whether our team was going to win or not.”
During the tournament, Fukushige had to take two medical time-outs. “A really big blister had formed on my hand, and it hurt so bad that I couldn’t even hold my racket.” After having her hand taped by a trainer, Fukushige hit two winning serves the match.
While she may make it look easy, Fukushige admits that “it doesn’t matter whether my opponent is a good player or a mediocre player; I always feel nervous.” And while usually her nerves subdue once she starts to play, sometimes they don’t go away, and she is forced to play nonetheless. “I usually take a breather to choose my target of placement, and I just go for it. I don’t think about it that much because I want to focus on the ball and not anything else. I’m a very competitive player, so it feels good to win.”
And win she does. Fukushige finished up the fall season earning multiple titles, including Liberty League Singles Performer of the Week (9-24), ITA Northeast Singles Champion and ITA All-American (singles), making her ability to balance academics, friends and the sport she loves is a truly inspiring feat.