Melisa Ates leading on the court

From Turkey, the tennis athlete chose to play and earn an education at WSU


DES MARKS | Daily Evergreen file

Sophomore computer science major Melisa Ates competes in the Cougar Classic on Sept. 9 2016.

RYAN BLAKE, Evergreen reporter

At 20 years old, Melisa Ates finished the fall portion of her season with a 2-1 record in singles play at the Wildcat Fall Invitational. Just a sophomore, Ates has worked her way into playing in the top flight for doubles, and second flight for singles, after a freshman season that saw her lead the Cougars in combined victories with 43.

WSU is home to numerous student athletes. Many of them begin college after exceptional high school and international careers. But, few come to Pullman having earned a world ranking while representing their country.

Her early career success comes as no surprise, however. Before coming to Pullman, Ates competed at the highest levels of the IFT Junior Circuit in Turkey. A native of Antalya, Turkey, she reached a high of No. 13 in her country’s national rankings and ranked as high as No. 3 in age-group rankings.

Ates said she is grateful for her teammates, who help support her endure the tough season schedule.

KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen
Sophomore tennis athlete Melisa Ates discusses why she chose to come to WSU on Tuesday.

“We have a small team, which makes us actually even closer,” Ates said. “Everybody is just helping each other out and competing well.”

Ates said she wanted to come to the U.S. for the opportunity to get better at tennis, while continuing her education. She said in Turkey, players must choose between education and tennis after high school.

Originally undecided about what school to choose, Ates said she was convinced after meeting with Head Coach Lisa Hart and Assistant Coach Robin Cambier. It also helped that her friend and teammate, Ege Tomey, committed to the Cougars.

Since being in Pullman, Ates said she has noticed differences in the game both on and off the court. The competition level is much more intense, another key reason for her decisions to come to the U.S., she said.

Hart said she heard about Ates from her assistant coach, and knew she would be a good fit at WSU.

“My assistant, Robin [Cambier], actually got to go watch her play in-person and right away, he loved her demeanor on the court, her work ethic, personality — all of it,” Hart said. “We kind of feel we got the all-around package with her.”

Her coaches are the best she’s ever had and they genuinely value her opinion, she said, which has helped her confidence in a new environment.

Additionally, she said her trainers have been important in getting her prepared for the season, and improving her physicality so she can compete at a high level. Hart said she is proud of Ates’ commitment to training and the progress she has made.

A computer science major, Ates said it is difficult balancing school and tennis. She said she is thankful for her professors who, for the most part, are very understanding of her demanding schedule. While she said she does not think she will play professionally one day, she does hope to be as good at tennis as possible.

Hart said Ates is a big part of the future for WSU tennis. She said her maturity in life, and on the court, is something that stands out.

“We’re really excited, not only how far she’s come, but that she’s only a sophomore,” Hart said. “She’s definitely a great leader on our team and definitely just one of our players who does everything right on and off the court. We’re super excited we get her for another two-and-a-half years.”