Ex-WPIAL champ Alison Riske on tennis’ biggest stage in Wimbledon quarterfinals | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World Sports

Ex-WPIAL champ Alison Riske on tennis’ biggest stage in Wimbledon quarterfinals

Chris Adamski
1386164_web1_1384760-2e675383f58a4cd1895d3408a2b8681f
United States’ Alison Riske waves after defeating Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in a women’s singles match during day seven of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Monday, July 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
1386164_web1_ptr-Riske-070919
Alison Riske, in a 2006 file photo, competing for the Peters Township girls’ tennis team. Riske on Tuesday will play a Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Serena Williams.
1386164_web1_1160758705
Getty Images
Alison Riske of the United States celebrates victory in her Ladies’ Singles fourth-round match against Ashleigh Barty of Australia during Day 7 of The Championships - Wimbledon 2019 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 08, 2019 in London, England.

When Alison Riske joined the Peters Township girls tennis team in 2006, she already was one of the country’s highest-ranked players for her age group.

It would be her only season of high school tennis, typically not a domain for the elite of the sport. Riske would go on to win the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA singles titles, of course, and she “just rolled through all of her completion, pretty much,” as her coach at Peters Township, Brandt Bowman, tells it.

“We knew she was unstoppable,” Bowman said Monday, a few hours after Riske advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. “She had the ability, and she had a strong work ethic.”

Riske, Bowman said, joined the Indians tennis team for the experience. Then a cyber-school student who eventually moved to a warmer locale where the best tennis players are trained, Riske enjoyed bonding with a team and the normalcy of being a high school athlete.

“Her teammates all loved her,” Bowman said. “She was great to everybody. What she’s doing now, it couldn’t happen to a better girl. She’s so nice, and she comes from a nice family. It’s great to see.”

Riske on Monday beat world No. 1 Ash Barty, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, in the Wimbledon Round of 16. Six days after turning 29, she will play in a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time, facing 23-time major champion Serena Williams on Tuesday in London.

“She beat Barty, who is probably the hottest player on tour right now,” said Augie Garofoli of the Upper St. Clair Tennis Development Program where Riske learned to play the sport. “Now, she’s going to play the best player ever.

“I think Ali will be ready.”

Garofoli emphasized he never did one-on-one private instruction with Riske, but he is one of the teaching pros at the Upper St. Clair facility where Riske trained most often under head pro Janice Irwin. Garofoli remembers conducting camps for youngsters and having Riske catch his eye early.

“We’ve known Ali since she was 8 years old,” Garofoli said. “We know her family, so we definitely keep tabs on her.”

So, increasingly, is the tennis community in Western Pennsylvania. The populace at large certainly will start taking more notice if Riske can upset Williams in a match that begins 8 a.m. Tuesday.

“She never really (left the area) to train, like you see so many of the top players do,” Bowman said.

Riske eventually did leave once she turned pro, moving to Hilton Head, S.C., after high school. Nashville is listed as her current residence. Riske initially accepted a full scholarship to Vanderbilt, but just weeks before classes began, she elected to try the pro game.

She has been ranked as high as No. 36 in the world (in 2017), although Riske entered Wimbledon ranked 45th and almost certainly will move up after her performance at All England Club. Riske previously advanced as far as the Round of 16 in a Grand Slam tournament in 2013 at the U.S. Open.

Grass courts always have been where Riske feels most comfortable. Last month, she won her second professional tournament — the grass-court Rosmalen Championships in the Netherlands — and is 14-1 on grass this year. She is 11-8 all-time at Wimbledon, winning at least one match there in five of the past seven years and making it to the Round of 32 four times in that span.

“She hits a real flat ball, and she likes to go to the net,” said Bowman, explaining Riske’s strength on grass courts. “She had a good return game, too, which neutralizes the best servers on grass.”

Thirteen years ago, Riske led Peters Township to its first PIAA team tennis title cruising to the WPIAL and PIAA singles titles. Riske lost a total of eight games in eight WPIAL and PIAA singles tournament matches played at Hempfield High School and Hershey Racquet Club, respectively.

Tuesday, she will be on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | US-World | Top Stories
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.