“I was shocked and excited at the same time,” Graves said. “I was happy because I’m finally setting my mark on something I want to do.”
Involved in the sport since the age of 2, Graves is coached by her father, Sam Graves, while also being trained by Jermaine Jenkins and Natalie Frazier.
“What really makes her a cut above everybody else is her heart,” Sam Graves said. “She has a heart of a lion and she is tenacious as far as her ability to fight to the last point. That is what everybody likes about her.”
“I like that is an individual sport,” Zina Graves said. “You don’t have to depend on other people or you can’t make any excuses and put it on somebody else. It’s your responsibility to make the right shots or whatever you have to do. It’s much more competitive because you are out there by yourself against somebody else.”
Scheduled to appear in a tournament in September, Zina Graves (who hit 24 straight balls when she was 2) is training 15 to 20 hours each week on the court and running mile after mile off of it. Her father likes to compare her to Justine Henin because of her speed and determination to have a complete game.
“She is going to attack you and put pressure on you to the point to make you pop,” Sam Graves said. “Her job is to keep putting pressure on you like a boilermaker. That takes a special type of player and a special type of training. The results are not going to be quick but when they do manifest everything about her is a weapon.”
Along with playing tennis, Zina Graves likes to sing, play the piano, ride horses and encourage other kids her age to attend church.
“She encourages young people to read the word, know the Lord’s Prayer and read Proverbs daily,” said Sam Graves, who is also the founder of Re-Creation Tennis.
His daughter would like to go to UCLA and study medicine.