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Lumpkin weighs post-graduate options
By Joshua Welge | Daily Herald Staff

Elizabeth Lumpkin


Courtesy UCLA

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Published: 5/1/2009 4:30 PM

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Like a line judge sizes up a tennis ball hugging the baseline, Elizabeth Lumpkin weighs her future.

On one side, the tennis, record-breaking at Naperville Central High School just a few years ago. Then there is the passion for research inside the student who graduated this past year from UCLA with Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude honors.

There really is no bad call.

Lumpkin, a 2004 Naperville Central graduate, gained notoriety in high school when she became the first player in IHSA history to win four state singles titles. She went on to UCLA, where in 2008 Lumpkin was part of a lineup that won the school's first national championship in tennis.

Perhaps it was a new coach's advice, or maybe it was the will to keep her spot in a deep lineup, but "something clicked a little bit." Lumpkin went 24-1 as a senior.

"I figured out a few things, in terms of maximizing my advantage in terms of momentum," Lumpkin said. "I started to understand more how intense you need to be, at what points you need to execute. Senior year, there was a sense of urgency. I wanted to win every match I could."

Lumpkin finished her degree in mass communication studies and in the summer and fall played in 7-8 tournaments on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. A player must win matches to earn points in at least three sanctioned tournaments to get a world ranking. Ranked players don't have to go through qualifying to get to a tournament's main draw.

Lumpkin earned prize money totaling $2,957 while earning a singles ranking of 916 and doubles of 836; she advanced as far as the semifinals in singles at a 10K tournament in Evansville and the doubles finals at 10K tournaments in Southlake, Texas, and St. Joseph, Mo.

Lumpkin coordinated her travel to tournaments in November and December with a freedom of communication class. She hasn't played since January, interning from January through March at CBS News in Washington on the investigative unit.

While on the job, Lumpkin attended a congressional hearing for CBS News and staked out Tom Daschle's house and office trying to get a comment after he withdrew his nomination for a Cabinet position.

"It was a good changeup," Lumpkin said. "We did background and research for a lot of stories, a lot of fact-checking. It's a good in between doing research and gets you used to statistical analysis."

At this point Lumpkin's plan is to play tennis for a year, work for a year in a law firm or advocacy organization and then go to law school. That could change.

In January she applied for a couple fellowships. One fellowship that starts in the fall is with the judicial administration, where Lumpkin would be assigned a mentor in the California courts system.

She has thoughts of pursuing litigation, particularly civil rights litigation, in the future.

"If I was offered that position," she said, "I would have to decide if a summer in tennis is enough for me."

Time is on the side of tennis. Lumpkin can't try going back in five years when she hasn't trained. She has the rest of life to work. Graduate school isn't going anywhere.

At the same time if she can't push a ranking better than 600 in the world it doesn't make practical sense to play.

"Part of it is whether you can making a living," she said. "If you can travel around the world and break even, great. Realistically with flights, hotels, food expenses, coaches - from a financial perspective it doesn't make sense if you're losing money."

In the most immediate future, Lumpkin's next tournament stop will be in June in El Paso.

She cannot envision herself on the tour for 5-7 years.

"I like research," she said, "and I like school. It's hard to have an academic side to your life when you're playing tennis all the time."