Parks Has Big Game and High Hopes for 2023

As I watched the inaugural United Cup tennis tournament at the start of the 2023 season, I spotted an African American woman whom I did not recognize on the United States team bench. Through a process of elimination, I figured she was Alycia Parks, a deduction later confirmed by match announcers.

Parks apparently was an alternate on the U.S. squad loaded with players inside the Top 50 that ultimately won the mixed men and women competition spread among three cities in Australia. I never saw her play a match.

By now, you may have at least heard of this unheralded 22-year-old Atlanta native who recently won her first Women’s Tennis Association singles title to reach a career high No. 51 in the rankings. But you won’t find much about her beyond name, age and height in her WTA and International Federation of Tennis profiles.

Yet, if this big-serving relative newcomer lives up to expectations — her own and those of people who have seen her play — she and her story will become as familiar as that of those who have inspired her — think Serena and Venus Williams.

“I expect this to be the first of many titles for this incredible 22-year-old from the U.S.,” said an obviously impressed Tennis Channel commentator after Parks won the WTA 250 championship in Lyon, France, on Feb. 5. “She has tremendous power and incredible feel around the net. But above all is her character.”

Parks first appeared on my radar screen as one of five African American women in the main draw of the 2021 US Open, where she punctuated her first (and only) appearance at a major with a 129-mph serve that equalled the tournament record set by Venus Williams for the fastest serve by a woman.

At the time, there was not even a photo attached to her WTA and ITF profiles. Today, there is a photo, but the bios are as brief as they were nearly two years ago.

Here is what I have been able to stitch together from various reports, the most substantive of which was a December WTA Insider article about her latent 2022 rise from relative obscurity to a Top 75 player on the women’s tour.

Parks’ story mirrors that of Venus and Serena Williams. In fact, she names Serena as her tennis idol, and as a teenager she got to play Serena’s body double in a Gatorade commercial, according to WTA Insider.

OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC – OCTOBER 04: Alycia Parks of the United States in action against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic during her first round match on Day 2 of the Agel Open at Ostravar Arena on October 04, 2022 in Ostrava, Czech Republic (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Parks began playing tennis at age seven with her older sister Mikayla. She told WTA Insider she knew from her first strike of a tennis ball that she wanted to play. She has been coached by her father, Michael, a former professional basketball player.

At age 10, the Parks family moved to Port St. Lucie, Fla., where she concentrated on developing her tennis game. Parks eschewed junior tennis, playing just eight matches at that level. She also spurned multiple college scholarship offers upon graduating from high school in 2019.

Parks’ WTA main draw debut was at the 2021 MUSC Health Open in Charleston, where she made it to the second round. She was awarded a wild card into the US Open that year where she launched that record-tying serve in a losing effort in the first round.

Parks began 2022 ranked No. 237. She began her surge up the rankings in October with big wins over former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and world No. 7 Maria Sakkari to reach her first WTA quarterfinal at the Ostrava Open in the Czech Republic.

At that same tournament, Parks teamed with American Caty McNally to win her first WTA doubles title. She has a career-high ranking of No. 52 in doubles.

Parks followed up her success in October with back-to-back WTA 125 titles in December that boosted her to No. 75.

“If I keep playing like this, how I’m feeling now, I should be going through draws pretty freely,” Parks told WTA Insider. “I do see myself Top 10 next year, which is pretty high, but it’s definitely doable.”

Parks certainly sprinted to a good start toward that lofty goal. In capturing her first WTA title in Lyon, she bombed 15 aces among the 28 winners she struck to conquer world No. 5 Caroline Garcia, who was playing in her hometown.

With that victory, Parks moved to the cusp of a Top 50 ranking. Since then, however, she has suffered a string of early losses, the latest being a first-round defeat at the prestigious Indian Wells Premiere 1000 event.

Parks’ ranking likely will drop below No. 55 where it stood at the start of the tournament. But those who have seen her perform sense her goal is not out of reach.

One such believer is former WTA doubles specialist turned tennis commentator and coach Rennae Stubbs. Stubbs was immensely impressed after watching Parks practice with Serena Williams in preparation for the 2022 US Open, during which Serena announced her “evolution” away from professional tennis.

“She was so good, she was literally pounding the ball,” Stubbs said on The Rennae Stubbs Tennis Podcast. “I was like, ‘how does this girl lose?'”

Stubbs said Parks possesses Serena-like serving power and has an all-court game to back it up. At 6’1,” she has the height to easily hit serves out wide on both sides of the court.

“I’m telling you, she’s a potential Top-10 player within the next 12 months,” Stubbs said. “She has every power tool in the world, and without question can be a grand slam champion one day if she keeps putting the work in.”



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