First year Winslow Township girls tennis head coach Andrea Hawn was a volunteer coach with the team last year, and having been a student of the game herself for 30-plus years, was already aware of the potential junior Gabby Robinson possessed after her first two years as an Eagle.
Before the start of the season, Robinson was named the lone captain of the team, something Hawn did because she felt the junior is not only a knowledgeable tennis player, but also a great leader who helped increase the team’s numbers in her first two years. And while she did show significant promise during that time with the Eagles, Robinson has now started turning that promise into solid results in the first month of this year’s tennis season.
“She came into the program already knowing how to play really well, which unfortunately isn’t always the case for girls looking to join their high-school tennis teams across the area,” Hawn said. “Her immediate experience was something that was very much needed on the team.
And looking at the past year or so for her, she’s developed a lot in her level of play.
“I don’t want to say it was a matter of surviving matches her first two years, but it wasn’t as clear cut as it is now … “ Hawn added. “Because now she’s dominating matches with a lot more power.”
Entering the Camden County Championship’s and the Olympic Conference Tournament (National Division) as the highest seed in each bracket last month, Robinson walked away from both tournaments with the singles titles.
“We knew she had the capability to win some of these things this year, instead of just hoping to have a good showing like she did the last two years,” Hawn said. “So it’s great to see her finally putting it all together like this.”
Looking back over the last two years, Robinson said making the best of the unfortunate situation that was and still is COVID helped accelerate her game in the past 12 months. It gave her the opportunity to play more tennis on a daily basis than ever, and also allowed her to analyze and dissect professional tennis techniques and style of play, all to up her own game.
“I learned a lot about myself as a player over the last year or so, on how to compose myself on the court, how I can focus and take my time throughout the match,” Robinson said. “From watching other South Jersey players and professionals, I’ve been able to improve my technique a lot.”
With increased virtual learning last year because of COVID, Robinson ended up coming out to play tennis more frequently than ever, despite having been a student of the game since she was about 5 years old. The increased time on the court is now paying great dividends for the junior as she makes a name for herself across South Jersey.
“I ended up coming out even more than I did before because we had online school,” Robinson said. “On top of that, I also watched more matches online from professionals and stuff like that, so I could still watch tennis and use what I see there to try to improve myself.”
Robinson’s two recent tournament performances have shown the strength and tennis IQ she has on the court, something she was hoping this past summer would end up paying off during her junior year.
“I set some expectations for myself before this season,” Robinson said. “I trained a lot this summer to get ready for this season, so I was excited to see how I could play against some of the people in our conference this time around.
“I feel like I prepared myself right early on and also I just reminded myself early on that I could win and that was important,” she added. “I had to get my mind right. I wanted to focus on staying within myself and doing the best that I could while taking my time and not feeling rushed, which I’ve been able to do.”