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From New Zealand to the US Open Championship: The Rise of Erin Routliffe

Written by: Tomas Morgan

Born in the picturesque city of Auckland, New Zealand, Erin Routliffe's life has been a remarkable journey filled with adventures on and off the tennis court. Raised in a family of explorers, Erin's parents embarked on a three-year sailing expedition around the world before she was born. This early exposure to travel and adventure would lay the foundation for her future in tennis.

Erin's family eventually settled in Canada when she was four years old, and it was there that her tennis journey truly began. She competed for Canada until the age of 20 before making a life-altering decision to switch allegiances and represent New Zealand, a move that would shape her career in unprecedented ways.

One of the pivotal moments in her tennis journey was her decision to attend the University of Alabama, a decision that took her from Canada to the heart of American college sports. When asked about her experience as a Canadian in Alabama, Erin's eyes light up with enthusiasm. "It was amazing," she recalls. "I narrowed it down to a couple of schools, and when I went down to Alabama, they took me to a football game, and I was star-struck by the amount of people and the atmosphere. I wanted to go to a place where I would make history."

Indeed, she did make history at the University of Alabama. Erin's decision to forego turning professional after her junior year of high school was motivated by her desire to mature as a person and tennis player. She also recognized that turning pro too early might lead to burnout. This decision paid off as she excelled athletically at Alabama.

Transitioning from high school to collegiate tennis brought significant changes in her training regimen. "It was really different," Erin explains. "There was always a schedule. Physically, it was different because tennis is such an individual sport. So when you join a team, it was completely different. You were doing the same training, and it was not individualized for yourself like it was in the past."

Alabama also introduced Erin to a world of culinary delights. She reminisces about her love for classic Alabama food, including fried chicken. However, her time at Alabama wasn't just about food – it was about winning. Erin and her teammates achieved remarkable success, winning two national titles and the SCC championship as a team. Beating Florida for the first time in history was a moment she'll never forget.

But it wasn't just about the victories; it was the bonds formed on and off the court that made her college experience special. Erin and her doubles partner were inseparable, which contributed to their success. She mentions that winning the SCC championship as a team was almost better than the NCAA national championship.

After graduating from the University of Alabama, Erin embarked on her professional tennis career. When asked about the best aspect of being a professional athlete, she reflects on the contrast between university life and the professional circuit. "When you are in university, you have everything taken care of for you," she explains. "Now there are tournaments all over the place. You have to decide where you want to play, where is the best place to get your points, where can I afford to go, and who am I going to play with?"

One of the most unforgettable moments in Erin's career came just a year after leaving college. She qualified for Wimbledon in doubles with a former Alabama teammate, but the journey to qualification was filled with twists. Initially, they believed they hadn't made it, only to hear their names announced on the big speaker during lunch. A scoring error had mistakenly excluded them, but justice was served in the end.

As her tennis journey continues, Erin has clear goals. As of June 9th, 2020, she aspired to be in the top 40 in double players. Now in September of 2023, she is ranked no. 20 in the world after an amazing performance this past weekend. Erin and her partner Gabriela Dabrowski beat former champions Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva in straight sets 7-6 (9) and 6-3 in the U.S. Open Women’s doubles final. Erin now has four titles since winning her first in June of 2021 at the Palmero Ladies Open in Italy.

Erin Routliffe's journey is a testament to the power of passion, determination, and a love for the sport. From sailing adventures around the world to making history on the tennis court, she continues to inspire athletes around the globe with her remarkable story. Whether in New Zealand, Alabama, or anywhere else, Erin's dedication to tennis remains unwavering, ensuring that her journey is far from over.

To hear more about Erin’s story listen to episode 35 of The Athletes Podcast here or listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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