Move over Ramona Singer and Jill Zarin, there’s a new tennis rock star in the Bravo family. Hannah Berner from Summer House has shown viewers a few of her tennis moves, proving that she knows how to command a court.
From the first episode, Berner’s expert tennis skills were on display. She admitted in a confessional interview that she knows her way around the tennis court (yeah, just a bit). During a morning match with Jordan Verroi, Berner’s warrior return pretty much schooled her athletic housemate. “For 22 years my entire life was pretty much tennis,” she said in an off-camera interview. “When I was 14, I was ranked 15 in the nation. When I was 16 I was ranked 250 in the world.”
She came close to going pro but decided to try to find balance in her life. “I didn’t have balance when it came to tennis,” she admits. “It was my whole self-worth. By the age of 22, I was ready to move on.”
Tennis was always in her blood
Like many gifted young athletes, Berner knew what she wanted from a very young age. She told ESPN she was 3 years old when she started playing tennis and 8 years old when she wanted to ultimately go pro.
“I had a coach and was playing in real tournaments by the time I was 8,” she said. “It’s so crazy, ’cause when you’re living it, it’s just what’s happening, but now that I’m 27, I’m like, “You were a literal infant.” I started playing national tournaments by 11, and by 14, I was ranked No. 15 in the nation for juniors.”
While she was trailblazing a name for herself in the tennis world, she knew something wasn’t right. “I was on that trajectory to go pro, but then I basically had a breakdown,” she told ESPN. “I was not happy, and I missed my family, and I was putting way too much pressure on myself.”
She said she was working on changing her full-hand grip, and there was so much pressure because her parents were paying for all the travel. “Even though my ranking was great, I didn’t feel my happiest. I went back home at 16, and I told my dad, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’”
She dominated the guys
In 2009, The New York Times wrote a profile piece about Berner’s outstanding talent. At the time, Berner was a 17-year-old high school student, taking down just about every opponent who tried to match her. Especially the boys.
Her high school didn’t have a girls tennis team but that was no big deal for Berner. “Wherever I go I have to prove myself,” she said. “I have to prove I can play with the guys. But they have to prove they can play with me.”
In fact, she said she preferred playing with the guys. I have an unconventional game for a girl,” she said. “I try to go on the court and play like a guy.” However, her male opponents were not as enthusiastic to play Berner as she managed to crush plenty of egos in her wake.
From tennis to reality
Berner ultimately pursued a career in media, where she is also excelling. Her love of video is what perked her interest in doing a show like Summer House. “I was making funny videos, and I had some friends on the show already, and my name was thrown in the mix,” she told ESPN. “I realized this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Some people might be a little more scared about the situation, but because of my past in athletics and being a tennis player, I’m like, ‘What can reality TV be that’s too difficult to deal with?’”
While she says there were some challenging moments while filming, reality television is filling a void left from tennis. “But, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been missing the high of sports. I’ve been looking for that high of excitement you get from hitting a winner or your team winning the match, and reality TV brought me that high again, of kind of creating something that the whole nation’s gonna watch.”
Any particular tennis players that would be fun to watch on a reality show? “Oh, this is easy: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova,” Berner said. “Serena Williams wears her heart on her sleeve, and she puts her foot in her mouth all the time because she’s Serena Williams and she kind of can, but then I think Maria Sharapova would be the popular girl in high school who no one really likes but everyone respects.”
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