The same week that the final tennis Grand Slam of the season begins, Newport Beach professional tennis player Julia Boserup begins her final semester at Penn State University.
Boserup, who takes classes online and will graduate in December, is majoring in psychology. And her mental fortitude will be a big factor as she travels to New York for the U.S. Open, which for her begins with qualifying on Aug. 23.
Boserup, 24, isn’t exactly a household name. At least, not yet. At Grand Slam tournaments, she has to battle through three qualifying rounds before even worrying about the main draw. Her online school gives her something to do when she’s not playing matches or practicing.
Yet, Boserup is also coming off the biggest result of her professional career. She made it to the third round at Wimbledon last month, including an upset of No. 7-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, before succumbing to Elena Vesnina of Russia, 7-5, 7-5.
She can’t really say why or how she broke through. She was in Europe for two months with her coach Raj Chaudhuri before even getting to the All-England Club, playing in tournaments and training. The results weren’t really there, but she said she felt good about the way she was competing. Then it all came together at the most prestigious tournament in tennis, as Boserup made the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Once she got there, Boserup’s friend Jill Craybas showed her around the grounds. Craybas, a former pro tennis player herself, lives in Huntington Beach and was at Wimbledon as a commentator.
“It was a really great experience,” said Boserup, who was playing at Wimbledon for the first time as a professional. “My coach and I have been working on improving my game little by little every day, and I think that has really helped me. Every match felt like just a tennis match, rather than the big occasion that it was.”
Boserup’s mother, Anne-Marie, flew to England to watch her daughter’s run. They rented a house in Wimbledon Village and stayed there, Julia Boserup said, to try to keep things as normal as possible. Of course, there were some new aspects. Boserup had increased media requests from both U.S. and Danish journalists; she has dual citizenship as her mother and father Viggo are both from Denmark.
Julia, who lives with her parents when not traveling on the tennis circuit, is proud of her Danish heritage. She will often speak Danish at home with her mom. She’s the second-highest-ranked Denmark citizen in women’s tennis; only Caroline Wozniacki is higher.
“It’s the best of both worlds, that I feel both American and Danish,” said Boserup, who travels yearly to visit her older sister Mia and other family in Denmark. “It has been a huge part of my upbringing.”
Boserup was rewarded financially for her performance at Wimbledon. She earned $122,633, a large chunk of her career earnings of just more than $350,000, which was mainly earned in International Tennis Federation tournaments instead of the higher-level women’s Tennis Assn. events. Her ranking, which was at No. 225 heading into Wimbledon, reached a career-high 123 on Aug. 1.
It feels like a long time coming for Boserup, who trains at the Newport Beach Tennis Club. She won the prestigious Orange Bowl junior tournament in 2008, turning pro and moving from Los Angeles to Newport Beach shortly after. But Boserup has struggled with injuries since then, including stress fractures in both feet.
“Everything was sort of start and stop, in terms of being able to play,” she said. “I’m really happy that now I’m healthy and I’ve had a good stretch of time to develop my game and play a lot of matches. It was tough. You want to keep the momentum going. I learned a lot from it. I think it makes me appreciate every day I’m on the court now. I’m older now, more mature and really enjoying when I’m out there playing.”
Boserup continues to tinker with her game with Chaudhuri, a longtime coach on the WTA Tour who has been working with Boserup since February. She has always liked to be aggressive, with big shots from the baseline, but now she’s trying different things with spin and even serve-and-volleying on occasion. She did it a couple of times at Wimbledon.
“She looked over with a smile when she did it,” Chaudhuri said. “That was nice. That moment says a lot of things ... I think what’s nice to see with her is that she’s ready to challenge herself, even if it means stumbling. It’s one of the the hardest things to do when you’re a little bit established, try to take on new skills and put yourself in uncomfortable situations so you grow. It has been fun watching her do that.”
Boserup said she’s more committed to getting better than reaching a certain number in the rankings, though she did say she’d like to crack the top 100 as soon as possible. Both coach and athlete are on the same page, when it comes to focusing on constant progress.
For Boserup, an extended period of health has already produced big results at Wimbledon. She’d love nothing more than to make another big run at the U.S. Open. After that, Boserup said she plans to spend this fall in Asia, playing in WTA events.
“That gives me exposure to the top level,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to that challenge. I get to test my game at that level, and still work on getting better every day.”
Tests are part of Boserup’s life, both on the court and in the virtual classroom.
"[College] gives me something to focus on when I’m not on the court, which is really nice,” she said. “I had finals this week, so I’m enjoying a few days off before the fall semester starts. I’ll be ready for it.”