Wednesday August 29th, 2012

Stanford's Mallory Burdette is into the U.S. Open 3rd round, but plans to return to school after the summer. (Getty Images)

Mallory Burdette never expected this.

A 21-year-old senior at Stanford, Burdette thought the best she could do on the pro-level was play doubles. She's been a collegiate stand-out for the Cardinal, joining her doubles partner Nicole Gibbs in the NCAA women's singles final (Gibbs won) and teaming up with Gibbs to win the NCAA doubles title.

Now she's one of the last 32 women standing at the U.S. Open after defeating No. 69-ranked Lucie Hradecka 6-2, 6-4 in the second round. That win guarantees her a check for $65,000 in prize money and a possible third round match-up against Maria Sharapova, who plays later Wednesday. She'll gladly take the opportunity to play against one of her idols, but the money? That stays on the table. Burdette, ranked No. 252,  plans to return to Stanford for her last season in the fall which means she doesn't want to forgo her NCAA eligibility. That means bypassing the prize-money -- somewhere, Sergiy Stakhovsky is tearing his hair out -- and cashing in on the experience.

Burdette's journey to her first Slam was more of an experiment than a goal. After the school year finished in June, Burdette decided to play as many pro tournaments as possible during the summer in order to get a taste for the professional life. Would she enjoy the travel and grind? Turns out, she had a blast and had great success.

"I thought that I would play doubles at some point, but, no, I never thought I would have this type of success in singles, honestly. I had always worked towards it, but, no," Burdette admitted to reporters after the match.

"I definitely wasn't sure when I was 18 whether I wanted to go pro or not. I was on the fence. And so I said, I'm going to take my time. I'm going to go to college, work towards a degree, and go from there. I think it's been extremely valuable for me.

"It doesn't scare me as much to play pro tennis and to be successful. Just managing myself better out there on the court with my emotions has been huge."

She won her first WTA match at the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in July, won a $10K ITF tournament in Evansville, and then won a $100K ITF in Vancouver. That run earned her a main draw wildcard into the U.S. Open, where she won her first ever match at a Grand Slam on Monday, beating Timea Bacsinszky 6-4, 6-3. Unlike many successful college players, Burdette has some remarkable power off the ground. She plays an aggressive game-style, one that can get her in trouble when she gets nervous. But the power alone is enough to make you believe she has the type of game that could be successful on the WTA Tour.

As to whether her success at the Open changes her future plans, Burdette said she doesn't know. As of now she still plans to return to The Farm in the fall to finish her degree in psychiatry and head to medical school to get "a real job". She admits her summer gives her more to ponder.

"I really want to be a psychiatrist. So I was interested in med school. So I would have finished up my degree and I would have gone to some type of program where I could take all my pre med requirements and then hopefully go to med school. I had given that a lot of thought at the beginning of the summer and I was preparing for that." "Still am in a lot of ways, but, you know, my success this summer has kind of taken me in a different path a little bit. So I think my focus will be a little bit different when I go back to school."

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