Many families have toys strewn around their house, but for Abbotsford’s Rosie Johanson, it was something else.
“My mom and grandpa used to play tennis so there were always racquets around the house,” she recalled. “One day I just kind of picked one up and it felt totally comfortable.”
The sport became much more for the 17-year-old, as she recently accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Virginia to continue her tennis dreams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Born in England, Johanson and her family moved to Abbotsford when she was eight and began taking tennis more seriously in Canada. She began working with coaches in Vancouver and Coquitlam, and said Dmitri Penchev from Coquitlam’s Global Tennis Academy helped develop her game.
Her game continued to grow, and she began achieving success on the provincial and national stage. Johanson made it to the national finals in both the U12 and U14 singles tournaments. In March 2012, she won the Canadian U16 national championship, and followed that up with a win in the U18 division in June of that year.
Johanson’s success has continued since, as she won doubles titles at Canadian tournaments in 2014 and 2015. She was ranked 1,243rd in the world in 2014, and rose up to 1,031 in 2015, all before having the ability to vote.
She said she attracted considerable attention from NCAA schools, but enjoyed the atmosphere at Virginia.
“It was a really long process but I just really liked the coaches in Virginia,” she said, noting that she completed Grades 9 to 12 online so she could spend more time working on her tennis.
“I also really liked Charlottesville, the city where the school is in. It’s really a university town and I just loved the environment.”
She begins school in Virginia in the fall, and the structure of some of the tournaments will be new for Johanson.
Fall tournaments are individual matches, but in the spring the school plays as a team in dual matches. Wins will be counted as a team, and she will have to rely on her teammates to ensure success.
“I’ve never been on a team or anything like that so I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “The atmosphere is so different and I’ve heard the fans get really into those matches.”
Johanson will study sports science and kinesiology in Virginia, and she said her goal for her first year is to make it into the NCAA top 15.
She said she needs to work on consistency, but thinks she can use her speed and athleticism to succeed in the NCAA.
She would also like to follow in the footsteps of her tennis idol Kim Clijsters and succeed professionally.
“That would be my ultimate goal,” she said.
Johanson suits up for the University of Virginia Cavaliers starting in September.