Bianca Aboubakare '11 walked on the court a Women's tennis player last Saturday. She walked off it a school record-holder. With a straight-set win, 6-4, 6-0, over Alison Rauh of Davidson College, Aboubakare clinched her 85th career singles victory, breaking a Brown women's tennis record set nearly 12 years ago by Saranga Sangakkara '99. Aboubakare — partnered with Jessica Harrow '14 — also notched her 72nd doubles win on the same day and now needs just one more victory to take sole possession of the career doubles mark.
For her day of record performances, The Herald has named Aboubakare Athlete of the Week.
The Herald: How did it feel to break the singles win record?
Aboubakare: It was really cool. I thought it was really revealing in terms of seeing how far (Head Coach) Paul (Wardlaw) has taken this program. … It was just really nice because I put in a lot of hard work as a kid and to see it manifest itself in breaking this record was cool.
What are you most proud of accomplishing in your Brown tennis career?
I'm most proud of how this team has shaped up. The results that I have are a result of the wonderful people around this team. They're my sparring partners, they're my teammates and they're my friends. We all push each other, so these results are not just something that I came up with on my own. And to come up with this record — it's not really anything, I'd say, because I know someone else in the next two years will probably break it, which is really cool.
When did you start playing tennis?
I started competing when I was 10, almost 11. I started picking up a racquet when I was seven or eight.
Did anyone influence you to start playing?
I watched my dad play on the public courts, and that's where I started. That's what I did my whole life. That's what I attribute my craftiness or whatever — playing against those old Vietnamese guys is crazy. They play with beer bottles, paddles, chairs, and they're really smart. They can do whatever they want with the ball, and I had to adjust to that as a kid. I would have to do the same thing to beat them. So that was really fun. And because I had to do that, that's what kept me playing. I had to push myself against these older guys.
You went to Morning Star Academy, a home schooling program. How was your high school experience, and what made you decide to come to Brown?
I always did well in school. Doing an independent study, you had to figure things out on your own and teach yourself. I think it helped to establish or fuel my critical thinking because I wasn't having people feed me information all the time. I had to go around and find it to do well in these courses. As for getting into Brown, that was a shocker for me. I was mainly looking at big sports schools. When I was accepted to Brown, I was like, "Oh, that's cool. I might as well get an education." (laughs) And it turns out that was the best decision I could have made.
What are you studying?
Human biology with a theme in brain and behavior.
What are your plans after graduation?
Well, I would like to take extra classes, like a postbaccalaureate program, but at the same time do assistant coaching for tennis. I'm hoping those two come hand in hand. That would be really nice. I'm hoping to eventually go to medical school in two or three years.
What do you like to do off the court?
I really like music. I mean, I don't have any specific musical talents, but I do like music.
Do you have a favorite band?
Not really. I like to listen to everything. I dabble in everything.
Are you a big follower of professional tennis? Do you have any favorite players?
I thought Martina Hingis was really cool for a while. I thought she was really smart, and I try to play smart, too. I'm not someone who will try the same thing every time. I like to mix it up, and people have told me that I'm unpredictable. But right now, I like to watch (Rafael) Nadal because he's such a fighter, and it's nice to see that kind of heart — it's really tangible when he's out there.
What is the strongest part of your game?
I guess I just never give up. People find it hard to play me because even when I'm down, or really way down, I can pick myself up and keep fighting. ... I'm not anything special. I'm much smaller than everyone else, so I just have to grind it out.
Are you and your sister (teammate Carissa Aboubakare '12) competitive with each other?
Because we were available to each other when we were little, we pushed each other. But we were also supportive of each other. We were doubles partners. We were best friends growing up, and we're still best friends.
What are your personal and team goals for the rest of the season?
My personal goals are to keep improving. It's funny because this is my last season, and for me to keep improving, it's like, ‘Well, what's it for?' But I just think having growth in this game is important. It makes it more fun, and it just gives me a goal always. I obviously want to win all my matches, but it's going to be hard — I play a lot of tough people. One of my main goals is to be a leader out there and set a good example for the younger players. And for the team, I just want us to keep playing as a team and supporting each other. Although tennis is an individual sport, you really take a lot of energy from the people around you.
Do you have any plans of playing competitively after college?
Everyone has asked me if I want to go pro. And that would be awesome, but it's expensive. I guess my main competitive stuff will be going back out to the public tennis courts and playing against those old guys again. That's like some of the best memories I've had in my life.