Gameday+ | Meet a Buckeye: Danielle Wolf, women's tennis

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra
Danielle Wolf is a fifth-year senior at Ohio State, where her younger brother, JJ, also played tennis. [Maddie Schroeder/Dispatch]

Danielle Wolf

Sport: Women’s tennis

Age: 22

Year: Fifth-year senior

Hometown: Cincinnati

Major: Strategic communication

Question: Yours is a tennis family, I know. What is your brother JJ up to, now that he has left Ohio State and turned pro? Is he loving life out on the challenger tours?

Answer: JJ is working very hard! The transition from college to pro tennis is obviously difficult. You go from having a team and fans cheering you on, to traveling on your own and playing for yourself. JJ is enjoying this new challenge at such a high level and is definitely being pushed.

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Q: I saw that he won a match trying to qualify for the Cincinnati tournament a few weeks back; were you among the family and friends cheering him on?

A: Unfortunately, I was out of town, but I’m hoping I’ll have plenty of chances to get to see him play in the Western & Southern Open in the future.

Q: Your parents, Jeff and Brooke, were college athletes back in the day, as well?

A: My dad played basketball and tennis at Rollins College, then played professional tennis after. My mom played tennis at Miami University; my dad was her coach before she went to college.

Q: How often do you guys (mom, dad, brother, sister) play against each other, even for kicks? Does that dynamic work, or are you all too competitive?

A: We used to play mixed doubles on vacation in Florida and Hilton Head — my dad and I against my mom and JJ. It was always very competitive; we always played for something. But my mom hurt her back, so we haven’t played in a while. Before I went to college, JJ and I practiced only with each other and my dad, so we would play all the time.

Q: Let’s get to your college journey. When you were coming out of high school, you went west, to Indiana, instead of north  to Ohio State. What fueled that decision?

A: To be honest, my heart was always with Ohio State. I always wanted to be a Buckeye, but the first time around it didn’t work out. I visited IU, and it was a beautiful campus, had very nice facilities and good academics.

Q: When did you start to thinking about transferring to OSU, and why?

A: After my first season as a Hoosier, I decided I wanted to be part of a more developmental program where I could reach my potential and have opportunities to play some bigger college tournaments. Ohio State offered both of those things.

Q: How much did it help that your transfer year coincided with JJ’s freshman year at Ohio State?

A: It definitely helped a lot. JJ and I wanted to be close to my dad while he got treatment at the James Cancer Center, so that had a lot to do with our decisions to come to OSU, on top of the phenomenal tennis programs.

Q: How has your tennis improved since coming to the Buckeyes?

A: More than I ever thought it would. Before college I played a few other sports, but I knew I wanted a developmental program with an environment conducive to improving and succeeding. (Coaches) Melissa (Schaub), Adam (Cohen) and Ty (Tucker) have helped me develop into the player I am today, and I hope I continue to improve as the year goes on.

Q: You have six out-of-state road trips coming up in fall tennis; which one are you most looking forward to?

A: A goal of mine for as long as I can remember is to play in the ITA All-American championships (Oct. 5 in Tulsa, Oklahoma). I am really looking forward to playing that if I get in.

Q: By my calculations, you are the only senior on the women’s team. Do you catch grief for being the team mom, or get respect for having been around the block?

A: I haven’t been called the team mom yet, but I have been called old. I think the girls respect me as a leader because of how much I have experienced and learned over the years. It’s nice to be able to help out the younger girls and get them ready to be leaders themselves when they are upperclassmen.

Q: Let’s get to pro tennis: Which side is more interesting at the moment, men’s tennis still dominated by the “big three” or women’s tennis, which is much more wide open?

A: I think both sides are interesting but different. It’s so much fun to follow all of the young players doing so well and climbing in the rankings.

Q: Does it seem possible that after getting beat by Bianca Andreescu at the U.S. Open, that Serena Williams has lost four straight Grand Slam finals, all in straight sets?

A: I don’t think people realize how huge it is to make a Grand Slam final. Bianca has a lot of firepower and I think a lot of players, including Serena, aren’t used to that. Serena is usually the player with the biggest shots and the most aggressive game, and I think Bianca challenges that.

Q: At one point in her career, in 2015, Serena was 21-4 in major finals. Since then she is 2-6 in finals; do you think it’s physical or mental holding her back?

A: Competition is tougher than ever right now, and Serena is bouncing back from having a baby. And she has done so pretty quickly. I definitely think more titles are in her future.

Q: Back to the “big three” men, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: Would you rank them for me in order of your preference, and assign letter grades to each of them?

A: Federer, A; Nadal, A; Djokovic, C-minus.

Q: Federer and Nadal are tied for first?

A: Federer is my favorite. I always compare my dad to him. They both hit such a clean ball and of course the one-handed backhands. Roger is classy and respectful, and the way he moves and sees the court is one of a kind. Rafa is a close second. He is passionate and genuine, and the way his ball moves on the court is unparalleled.

Q: But Djokovic is solidly third among the three?

A: I’m not the biggest fan. My parents always made a bigger deal about the way you act on the court than winning, and this is something that I don’t always see when I watch Novak. It’s easy to have a good attitude when you’re winning; when you’re losing is when your true colors come out, and that’s why I think Roger and Rafa are two of the greatest players of all time. I don’t think I will ever root against Fed or Rafa, unless JJ plays one of them.

Q: Excluding immediate family members, which only seems fair, what young tennis player, man or woman, are you most excited about?

A: I really like Madison Keys and Bianca Andreescu. I like how powerful their game styles are. I like watching players that I can relate my game style to and learn from.

Q: Quick-volley finish: Cincinnati-style chili, overrated or underrated?

A: There is nothing better than Skyline Chili.

Q: Fill in the blank: The one television show I simply cannot miss is …

A: “NCIS.” My dad got me into it, and I have been watching all of the NCIS shows ever since. I’m obsessed.

Q: True or false: Ice cream is the greatest sweet treat in the history of the planet.

A: Ice cream is one of my absolute favorites, so yes.

Q: What musical artist could you listen to all day?

A: Adam Levine.


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