Star Makarome’s first name suits her. The Wiregrass Ranch (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) tennis player has been shining on the prep scene for the past two seasons, finishing as the Class 4A state singles runner-up as a freshman and winning the Class 4A-District 5 singles and doubles titles as a sophomore.
Now a junior, Makarome dominates the game as much as it dominates her life. She practices about four hours per day with her father, who has served as her coach since she was seven. To maximize her training, Makarome splits her time in the classroom with online courses at home.
“If I didn’t play tennis at a competitive level, I’d prefer to go to school the whole day. I love the interaction with teachers and the classroom setting,” said Makarome, who takes advanced placement English and honors U.S. history at school and calculus, physics and forensic science at home.
Whether she’s on the court or burying her head in books, one thing is certain, Makarome is ready to dedicate herself to the task at hand.
“I learned at an early age that it takes a lot of discipline,” she said. “I don’t mind the rigorous work that comes with it. I know there will be rewards afterward.”
As part of USA TODAY High School Sports’ Ultimate Athlete profile series, we’re shining the light on Makarome.
For eight months, we’re spotlighting cases deemed Ultimate Athlete-worthy as part of an ongoing, interactive discussion about what sport supersedes the rest. Check in for athlete profiles, smack talk, training videos and more, culminating with the crowning of the Ultimate Athlete.
Here, Makarome exposes her love for the sport and what keeps her ready for every play.
What about tennis most challenges you?
Makarome: There’s technical work that has to be done, you have to be fit, and you have to have mental toughness. You can be good at those three separately, but trying to put them all together is the most challenging part.
What do you think is misunderstood about the sport?
Makarome: Most people think it’s an easy sport, but it really isn’t. I feel like there isn’t much emphasis on tennis. People see athletes in team sports like football and basketball physically working hard. They put in as much work as tennis players do, but with the lack of exposure for tennis, people don’t really see how grueling it is.
Who do you look up to in the sport?
Makarome: Roger Federer because of his technique — he’s very fluid and clean. I don’t know how he does it. The way he plays looks effortless. I also look up to Justine Henin, who is a retired player, because she’s very small. She was No. 1 in the world and won many Grand Slams. She proved height doesn’t mean anything in the sport.
You’re relatively small, too. How do you compensate with your 5-foot frame?
Makarome: With speed and power. I have to be much faster to get to the ball, and I have to hit harder to make up for the distance I have to cover on the court. I do speed training every other day, usually on a soccer field.
Describe how you mentally approach a match.
Makarome: I don’t get nervous, but I don’t treat a tournament like practice either. When I’m playing, I get in my own bubble. I try to keep positive and mentally strong no matter what — it’s the most important thing. During a match I never believe I’ll lose until the last ball is struck, when the match really is over.
How does your personality differ on and off the court?
Makarome: On court, I have to be focused. I definitely get more aggressive. Off the court, I’m very social, and I love to talk to people.
What advice can the more seasoned Star share with younger players?
Makarome: Enjoy what you do. That’s most important. If you don’t like it, there’s no point in going through with it. I don’t think you’ll be able to be successful. If you work hard, things will come.