Motivation, drive, focus and determination are not attributes that one can simply learn. For Abigail Tere-Apisah, these things come natural and have set her apart as one of the best college tennis players in the United States.
Born and raised in Papua New Guinea, Tere-Apisah left home at the age of 11 to study at a tennis academy in Fiji. She then relocated to Australia where she lived before deciding to study at Georgia State two years ago.
A junior at Georgia State University majoring in exercise science, the native Pacific Islander is ranked number 37 in current singles by the ITA. Coaches have been awed by her "effortless and explosive swing."
Winning awards like 2012 Most Outstanding Performer at Colonial Athlete Association (CAA) Championships, 2012 CAA Player of the Year and 2012 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southeast Region Player to Watch, among many others, Tere-Apisah has the potential to be the next big thing in tennis. Not to mention, she was a Three-Time CAA Player of the Week in 2012 (Feb. 15, March 7, April 10). She was also a 2012 all-American.
"Abby is definitely one of the more talented players on the team," said Miha Lisac, the head coach for women's tennis at GSU. "She is a very good overall athlete. It's like she just has a natural instinct for tennis."
Unlike many athletes of her caliber, Tere-Apisah's coaches say she has been able to remain incredibly humble.
"She doesn't get caught up in her own success. Abby always puts the team first," said assistant coach Robin Stephenson. "She's very modest and humble."
But it's no coincidence that Tere-Apisah has a "natural instinct" for the sport. She comes from a tennis family. Both of her parents are tennis coaches in Papua New Guinea and her siblings play the sport as well.
Tere-Apisah says her family is the one thing that keeps her so motivated and focused.
"I always keep in mind how much my parents have done to get me where I am today," Tere-Apisah said. "They really sacrificed a lot and went out of their way to provide for me and my siblings. I didn't realize that until I came to America."
Being away from her family has been one of the biggest challenges Tere-Apisah says she's dealt with in college.
"I try to keep myself busy with school work, tennis and friends so that I don't think about it too much," she said.
Thus far in her college career, Tere-Apisah has been able to develop a unique bond with her teammates, a family away from home. Many of her teammates, like Chaimaa Roudami from Morocco, were born outside of the states as well.
"The girls really depend on each other and have used these connections to their advantage," said Lisac who described Tere-Apisah as relaxed and very easy going.
Teammate, Whitney Byrd, a senior at GSU from Atlanta, affirmed that description.
"She's so laidback. She has such a good heart. I really admire her attitude," said Byrd. "I hope everything works out for her if she does pursue tennis professionally. She deserves it."