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Column: Emma Sun is becoming a virtuoso on the court and a stage

Junior Emma Sun of Westlake High is a top tennis prospect and outstanding pianist.
(Mei Hu)

Emma Sun sat at the piano wearing a long, elegant gray dress, hands locked on her knees and eyes intensely focused on the piano keys as the sounds of violinists, horns, clarinets and trumpets blared at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza during the opening moments of “Beethoven Concerto 1 in C major.”

After 3 1/2 minutes, Sun’s hands came alive and her fingers went into action creating majestic, soothing music to blend in perfectly with the accompanying instruments of the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic.

At the conclusion of the concert last year, there was applause from the audience. Sun, 15, took a bow and three bouquets of flowers were placed in her hands.

Known as one of the top girls’ tennis players in Ventura County, the Westlake Village Westlake High student showed she knows how to handle stressful situations on and off the court.

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“Both are a lot of pressure,” she said. “You don’t want to mess up. When I’m playing either, I try to relax and try to do how I do during practice.”

Sun, a 5-foot-8 junior, can’t wait to resume tennis competitions that were halted last March when COVID-19 closed school campuses and forced cancellations of tournaments.

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Emma Sun is a top junior tennis player in the Southland who is just as comfortable performing in concerts as a pianist.

“I’ve been practicing, and I think I’ve gotten a lot better,” she said.

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Sun has returned to online classes at Westlake, where she has a 4.8 grade-point average, knows Mandarin and is being pursued by Harvard, UCLA and Stanford, among others.

“Her strengths are she’s very powerful and her mental toughness is really sharp,” Westlake coach Scott Yasgoor said. “She hits a very heavy tennis ball. She’s an incredible athlete.”

Her parents came here from China in 1998. Both are into computers. Father Terry played soccer and tennis in China and decided to introduce Emma to the sport when she was 6.

“I think girls need sports,” Terry said. “I play tennis, so why not tennis?”

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Terry didn’t know how long he’d rank No. 1 in the family.

“I played him until 11 or 12,” Emma said. “That’s when I started beating him.”

“I thought it would wait until 13,” Terry said. “I practice with her every day. I knew she was getting better and better, hitting harder and harder and more consistent.”

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Emma and her younger sister, Megan, who is a freshman, have also studied the piano for years. Emma is one of the few teenagers invited to play with the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic. She also volunteered to play music at an assisted living home where her coach’s mother lives.

Asked to compare performing in a concert with playing in a tennis match, Sun said, “I think tennis has more adrenaline because it’s more physical, but both have the same amount of satisfaction. After I finish my performance, I go backstage and feel real happy.”

She can be far more vocal after winning a tennis match.

“With tennis, after I win a point or match, I’ll usually say, ‘Let’s go,’” she said. “For piano, it’s weird to yell after a performance. They would look at me strange.”

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Sun advanced to the Southern Section individual tennis quarterfinals as a sophomore. This coming season, her coach believes she will be a contender to win the individual title.

Yasgoor, though, has one plea from Sun’s father.

“Don’t schedule matches on Wednesdays. That’s piano day,” Yasgoor said.


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