Lumpkin leaves mark in Landisville

Elizabeth Lumpkin needs a vacation.

Since she started experiencing nation-wide tennis success as a teenager, the UCLA grad hasn’t slowed her pace. Four-straight Illinois state titles in high school. A team national championship at UCLA. Success on the USTA Pro Circuit. More individual honors and awards than you care to count.

Through it all, Lumpkin does it all with something plenty of players have forgotten about: sportsmanship and class.

The runner-up in the last weekend’s Koser Jewelers Pro Circuit Tennis Challenge in Landisville, Pa., Lumpkin always focused on playing the game hard. Win, lose, or draw, she’s also focused on acting right before and after each match.

During the tournament last week, Lumpkin spent time each night hitting with the ball kids and offering advice about the sport, making the tournament experience even more special than usual for the ball kids involved.

“It was a fun week, and I love doing it,” she said after Sunday’s final.

As it turns out, Lumpkin could relate with the ball kids. Years ago, she had her own interesting experience as a ball girl. During a pro event in Chicago, Lumpkin was crouched in her stance when a shot tipped the top of the net, froze for a moment and then rolled onto the other side.

Thinking fast, Lumpkin swooped onto the court and picked up the ball. Problem is, the ball had only bounced once.

“I don’t know why, but I just ran out and got the ball before it could be hit,” she said, laughing. “The ball was still in play, and I was so embarrassed. So, I told these ball kids during the week, they were doing a much better job on the courts than what I did.”

After leading UCLA to the NCAA team title in 2008, Lumpkin was close to moving on with a career, but decided to give pro tennis a shot. While planning her wedding at the same time, Lumpkin traveled around the country and competed in various tournaments, seeing mixed results and, every now and then, earning a title. Her career-high singles ranking at one point reached 443, and her career-high in doubles hit 280. During the Landisville event, she won two doubles matches before losing in the semi-finals. In the singles draw, she won three matches as an unseeded player before losing to Piia Suomalainen in the final, 7-6(4), 6-1 in front of the Sunday crowd.

While her play on the court has been strong, perhaps most impressive is Lumpkin’s success and attitude off the court. A first-team All-Pac 10 Academic selection during her time at UCLA, Lumpkin spends time in the community and has been volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and with many youth-oriented events and initiatives. For her off-the-court success, she even earned a $10,000 postgraduate scholarship from the Pac 10, which she plans on using toward a law degree.

After Sunday’s match, Lumpkin did several interviews, spoke to the crowd and posed for pictures with Suomalainen. She even played photographer, taking photos of Suomalainen with her boyfriend before even catching her breath.

Lumpkin said she will continue to play tennis over the next few months and will also spend time in California, which is where she now calls home, before deciding on her future.

“We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “Right now I’m having fun and seeing what happens. Either way, this has been a great experience.”

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