Hard hitting

Meet the UChicago doubles team who won back-to-back NCAA titles.

By Elizabeth Station

Kendra and Chrissy

Kendra Higgins and Chrissy Hu fell short of winning their third consecutive NCAA doubles title this past spring. As consolation, Higgins took runner-up honors in Division III singles—and Hu, AB'11, finished an economics degree and an honors thesis on the political economy of Taiwan.

Higgins, a fourth-year from Vero Beach, Florida, is a human-development and Latin American–studies major. Hu is from Palo Alto, California. Top athletes in high school, neither had played tennis indoors until coming to Chicago. They talk about finding their groove in the latest issue of the Core.

QandA_QDrop.jpgBack in high school, how did people react when you told them you were going to play tennis at the University of Chicago?
QandA_ADrop.jpgChrissy Hu: UChicago is kind of under the radar. Not that many people have heard of it. The tennis team was unranked when I came in. We didn’t really become strong until Kendra’s first year, when we jumped from something like No. 29 to No. 4 within a year.
QandA_QDrop.jpgEarly on, did you sense that you would be good doubles partners?
QandA_ADrop.jpgCH:The beauty of our first year is that we didn’t go into it thinking we were great. It was amazing that we won at the NCAAs in 2009—we went into the tournament unseeded.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat’s the secret to your success together?
QandA_ADrop.jpgKendra Higgins: When we play a match, we rely on each other. We’re always there to cover each other.
CH: She always knows where I’m going to be.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHave you learned anything in class that applies to tennis?
QandA_ADrop.jpgKH: I feel like tennis and school need to have the same work ethic.
CH: You have to go out and perform, even if you haven’t had any sleep.
QandA_QDrop.jpgAs Division III athletes, how do you balance practice with studying?
QandA_ADrop.jpgCH: During the season, pretty much all we do is tennis and school. When you’re not at tennis, you’re at the library.
KH: You’re in our brand new [Mansueto] library. It’s gorgeous.
CH: They did build it over the tennis courts, though.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat were your favorite classes at Chicago?
QandA_ADrop.jpgKH: A political-science course with professor Robert Pape. He’s the world expert on suicide terrorism, and our TA was the world expert on female suicide terrorism. I felt like we had insider information.
CH: I took Dinosaur Science, an upper-level bio class, and I loved it. After graduation we went on a 10-day excavation with Paul Sereno to Montana. For a class called Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Beyond, we looked at photos and manga—Japanese cartoon books—as primary sources. It wasn’t a typical University of Chicago course where you’re reading Freud and Marx and all that.

Photo by Jason Smith.

July 20, 2011