Sade Atkinson in action for her Green Wave tennis squad. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

By Jake Beleski

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Former Wairarapa tennis star Sade Atkinson understands it’s not how you start the season that matters, but how you finish it.

Atkinson is currently in her third year at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she is on a tennis scholarship.

She has been busy making an impact for her Green Wave squad on the inter-collegiate tennis circuit, and earlier this month picked up the American Athletic Conference women’s player of the week award.

A daughter of Hullena and Luke Atkinson, of Carterton, she said winning the award was an honour.

“It means a lot and hopefully I can pick up a few more by the time I’m done here at Tulane.

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last year to improve my game, and like anything it’s nice to be recognised for something you’ve worked hard on.”

Atkinson admits there have been plenty of ups and downs during her three years at Tulane, but said the downs were important to get her to where she is today.

She is enjoying maintaining a winning record this season, and is confident her team can finish the season strongly.

“We just finished our last regular matches of the season this past weekend, and are preparing for conference tournament which is held in Florida in 10 days’ time,” she said.

“If we do well at conference tournament we will head to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) which is where the top 50 teams in the country meet and play for the title.”

Her team had been ranked as high as 36 this semester, and her coach was constantly reminding them that “it’s how you finish that counts”, and that this stage of the season is where it would get “mentally tough”.

Atkinson always sets goals to go one step further than the previous semester, and this semester that revolved around getting to the NCAA tournament, and making a mark in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

“Our team consists of a lot of talent, but we know that hard work at the end of the day is what gets results,” Atkinson said.

“It would be a fantastic achievement to make NCAAs as Tulane hasn’t been there post Hurricane Katrina.”

Her recent form has been lighting up the court, and it’s no surprise she picked out a player with more flair than most as someone she looks up to.

“I have always been a big fan of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“He’s very crafty and always entertains his fans when he’s on the court.”

Atkinson comes home to New Zealand each Christmas and during the American summer holidays, but said she was loving her time in New Orleans.

“I had a few options over here but at the end of the day, Tulane stole my heart and I’m glad I followed my gut and ended up here because if I could do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing.

“New Orleans has a different culture than any other place I have been to in the world, and I love it.”