Jamie Loeb knows one thing. No matter what, she is staying in New York.
The 16-year-old wildcard entry into the qualifying tournament for the juniors is at an age and a talent level where she could opt for expensive training academies in Florida and make tennis her full time job. Except for one thing.
“I like being at home,” Loeb said.
The Ossining, N.Y. teen saw first-hand that it didn’t work for her older sister Jenna, the New York State girls tennis champion a record three straight times. Instead, Jamie is ready to carve a path that includes studying online from home, training in part at the USTA Training Center-East and playing in high-level tournaments such as the one that begins Friday on the grounds of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center.
Her brother Jason, a gym teacher in the Bronx, is taking her back and forth to the tennis center as she practices. The northeast has better coaching these days, but the level of competition may not be as consistently high as it is in Florida, and playing indoors so much of the year isn’t optimal. Yet Loeb is not ready to pack up, given two brothers and a sister that can support her game from home.
The Loebs are a tennis family, and Jamie -- nine years younger than her next youngest sibling -- had to be competitive in order to keep up.
“She just has a lot of passion and focus and fight -- the intangibles that a lot of people don’t have,” said eldest brother Jason, 31.
Right now, Loeb is the top-ranked junior girl in the USTA Eastern Division, and the third ranked nationally. Like her champion sister, Loeb won the NYS high school title as a sophomore. Jenna is listed at 5-foot-3, and Jamie is 5-6. Without a height advantage, Jamie knows footwork and technique are that much more important. It’s something she works on with coach Jay Devashetty.
Loeb still feels strange stepping onto the tennis center grounds with a racket in her hand during the U.S. Open, but she has earned the right to be here.
Her first match is at 10 a.m., where she will play No. 6 seed Su Jeong Jang of Korea.
“I feel these past years I’ve been improving a lot and training hard and I feel like it’s paid off and now I’m here,” Jamie said. “It’s pretty exciting. It’s been a long way.”