PARK SLOPE, BROOKLYN — For Carrie-Anne Hoo, rising to the number one ranking in the country is hard to wrap her head around — even with a giant photo confirming the news at the Flushing tennis center where she practices.
"It was right in the entrance — I kind of freaked out," Hoo, a Park Slope middle schooler, told Patch about walking in to see the photo display. "...When I was young, I thought there'd [always] be these few people ahead of me and all of the sudden I saw that I was number one. I didn't really believe it."
The photo, set up at the front of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, came in the days after Hoo discovered she had reached the number one spot on the National Standings List for juniors, or girls 12 years and younger.
The news was particularly shocking given that Hoo had been ranked all the way at number 4,417 just two years earlier.
Her rapid success has, oddly enough, been a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic, which allowed Hoo to travel and practice more than she ever had before, she said.
"During the pandemic, I got to experience a lot more," Hoo said. "I was able to travel to national tournaments, I was able to practice more outdoors...I kept on trying."
In the early days of the pandemic, when Hoo wasn't able to get out to the courts to practice, she kept up her tennis game by hitting balls in her garage.
Hoo then started using local outdoor courts and eventually, because of remote learning options, was able to travel to 15 national tournaments over the course of two years, way more than if she had been in the classroom in-person five days a week.
"It helps a lot," Hoo's mom, May Voo, told Patch about the remote learning. "[Before] when she was away...she would have to miss school."
The tournaments were especially helpful in working on her "net game" and ability to play doubles, particularly with her partner, Nancy Lee, who is ranked fourth in the country, Hoo said.
The 12-year-old has loved the game of tennis since age 7 when her dad put her in classes.
Hoo said if she had to tell her younger self, or other younger players, a lesson about the game, it'd be to "never give up."
"Even though something may seem really impossible, if you keep working for it — you can get it," she said.
With the number one ranking under her belt, her sights are set next on becoming number one for any age group and playing tennis in college.
"After that, I want to become pro," she said.