On CBS’ popular reality show “The Amazing Race,” participants travel around the world to a dozen or so countries completing tasks and challenges to get clues that allow them to gain passage to their next destination.
If there was a tennis version of this travel-reality show, American pro Julia Cohen would almost certainly be one of the favorites to win the grand prize.
Journalists like to give catchy and quirky names to their pieces, so it was hard for me not to call this one “The Amazing Ace.”
I’ll tell you why.
By my count, with her playing in the the USTA’s Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs ten days ago outside of Atlanta, Cohen had played a startling 40 events during the 2012 calendar year.
To put that into perspective, The average top player on the ATP and WTA Tours would typically play 40 events in two years, and 40 will be about the number of events Spaniard Rafael Nadal will play in three calendar years since he missed much of 2012 with injury.
It’s also unusual since American players tend not to go to many out of the ways locales since there are so many tournaments they can play in North America.
I think it’s great Cohen isn’t afraid to travel to places like Biella, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan to play the best competition possible and to raise her ranking.
When I approached Cohen about doing this piece in Atlanta at the Aussie Wildcard Playoffs, she didn’t seem to think anything of the fact that she played 40 events, and she didn’t even have any funny or unusual travel stories to tell from 2012.
“I don’t have any,” admitted Cohen.
And when I pressed her harder, she thought for a second and again couldn’t think of any.
“It was a lot of travel, but it went pretty smoothly.”
Her tennis went pretty smoothly as well, as she broke into the top-100 in September and reached her first WTA Tour final at Baku in July with wins over Alla Kudryavtseva and Magdalena Rybarikova.
For Cohen, one of the few college graduates on the WTA Tour (University of Miami, Major: Nutrition) the run in Baku allowed her now to get into most tournaments she wanted to play.
“It was important,” explained Cohen. “We all want to play the bigger events, because that is where the prestige is and of course, more money.”
And play Cohen did.
After an ambitious first half of the year that took Cohen to Australia, Colombia, Mexico, the Bahamas, three cities in France, Italy and England, Cohen was knocking on the door of the top-125. I didn’t even mention the eight other tournaments in the U.S. she played through June.
The Philadelphia native showed no signs of letting up come July and with the Baku result, her confidence seemed to take off.
She reached the finals of an ITF event in Santiago, Chile and the quarterfinals of an event in Brazil to match strong ITF events she has stateside in the spring.
“I felt I played well, and well enough to get some good wins,” offered up Cohen.
She did have some good wins, notching victories over young, highly thought of Americans in Lauren Davis and Irina Falconi, and veteran Russian player Vera Dushevina.
It looks to be more of the same for Cohen in 2013.
“I’ll keep doing what I have been doing and be looking to get into bigger tournaments,” smiled Cohen.
Cohen’s mother Nancy, who was also present at the wildcard playoff for Australia in Atlanta was proud of what her daughter had accomplished in 2012?
I asked her if she travels full-time on the tour with Julia, and she said she mainly goes to the closer events when she can.
“I don’t, and can’t go to all the tournaments,” she told me.
Who can? I thought for a second and figured that if “The Amazing Race’s” host Phil Keoghan knew the intricacies of tennis, he would be a perfect coach for Cohen. He’s always calm, waiting patiently at the next city, and he looks like he could be a decent practice partner.
I have a feeling more good things are on tap for Cohen these next few years. She has a good chance to keep rising in the rankings and maybe even win a WTA event.
Julia Cohen: The Amazing Ace.
The Julia Cohen File.
Current WTA Ranking: 130
Born: March 23, 1989 in Philadelphia
Plays: Right-handedStarted Playing Tennis: Age of 6
Countries Played in during 2012: 19
Frequent Flyer Miles; ???