Columbia native Hayley Carter has been busy. In September, the North Carolina senior was in New York, playing at the American Collegiate Invitational. Earlier this month, she went to Los Angeles, where she became the North Carolina women’s tennis all-time wins leader at the Riviera/Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships.
Carter, who moved from Columbia to Hilton Head Island when she was 11 to train at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy, returns home four of five times a year. The three-time All-American took time to talk about her record-breaking career at Chapel Hill.
Q: Where was your favorite place to play tennis in Columbia?
A: Definitely a tie between the Richland County Tennis Center (where I used to play with Bernie McGuire and Dickie Anderson) and the Wildewood Country Club (where I played with Jim Hinson).
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Q: What was it like playing at the American Collegiate Invitational on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center?
A: It was an amazing experience. I would have liked it to have gone a little better tennis-wise, but it was such an honor to even play at the facility and practice alongside the top professionals. When I was 11, I won a lottery at a tournament for box seats at the U.S. Open. Since then, I had always dreamed of playing at Flushing Meadows. I have been lucky enough to be able to play the U.S. Open Junior Girls’ Singles (and upset the No. 7 seed) and the Collegiate Invitational twice now, and I look forward to hopefully playing on the big stage in the future.
Q: What are your goals for the season?
A: Individually, I just hope to keep improving my game as much as possible my last year at school and hopefully win an NCAA individual title. (Carter finished as the NCAA runner-up last spring.) My primary focus is definitely the team. I want more than anything to end my career with an NCAA team title.
Q: What’s been the most important thing you’ve learned in college, on- or off-the-court?
A: The most important thing I’ve learned in college is something my coach, Brian Kalbas, always emphasizes: Being a good person is so much more important than being a good tennis player.
Q: Who’s your favorite Twitter follow and why?
A: Easy, Tim Reynolds. He is a writer for the AP in Miami, so he covers all of the Miami sports (including my favorite, the Miami Heat). He’s a super funny guy and actually reaches out a lot to me to check in on my tennis. A close second is the coolest person in the entire world and my idol, LeBron James.
Q: Final question: Tar Heels or Gamecocks?
A: The hardest question of all. I was an absolute die-hard Gamecocks fan growing up, but I think I am going to have to go with the Tar Heels now (sorry, Columbia). Although I have to admit, the real Carolina will always be the Gamecocks.