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Since she was a freshman in 1987, Jamie Henikoff of the Harvard women's tennis team has been one of the Crimson's most overlooked players.
In Henikoff's freshman year, first-singles Kristin Bland, Henikoff's doubles partner, overshadowed Henikoff. In her sophomore and junior years, Henikoff played third singles, behind doubles partner Amy deLone--who played at second singles-- and first-singles Cristina Dragomirescu.
And last season the co-captain played second singles behind deLone. In her four years as a varsity tennis player for the Crimson, Henikoff never assumed her position in the limelight of Harvard tennis.
Although she has not played in the number-one position, Henikoff has been one of the Crimson's most consistent performers. Last season she compiled a 25-12 mark in singles. In 1990, Henikoff won 11 and lost five.
"Jamie is not a flashy, headliner-type, but she gets the job done," Coach Gordon Graham says. "Jamie is someone who you know will give it her best, whether she brought out her best game or not."
"She comes real close to being the ideal person to coach," Graham adds. "I don't think anybody worked as hard as she did. She worked on weekends and after practice. She had the top winning percentage on the team, and she did it playing up at number two."
Henikoff attributes her senior year upswing to additional practice and her goal of playing professional tennis after graduation.
"Last year I had taken off fall semester to go to Spain," Henikoff says. "It was difficult to fit in time for training, so it took me all of last season to get back in shape. This season, working nine months straight helped my game a lot."
"But I think that one of the biggest things," Henikoff adds, "was that early on, I started thinking about playing past graduation. When I trained this year, I felt like I was building towards something. I think it's a lot easier when you're playing for something greater. I put a little more time into it, and I felt like it paid off."
The national collegiate rankings are weighted based on the strength of one's opponents. Because Henikoff has rarely faced nationally-ranked players from her number-two (or below, as was the case from 1987-90) position, she has not frequented the national ranks on an individual basis.
But college tennis is a team sport in which all matches are weighted evenly. In many matches, Henikoff, who excelled at both singles and doubles, was able to contribute two wins (of nine total) to the Crimson cause with her superior doubles play.
Henikoff and deLone, who have competed as a Rair for three years now, delivered a point in almost every match. Last season, Henikoff and deLone amassed a 25-9 record, compared to 10-5 in 1990. Although Boston College's Jennifer Lane and Pam Piorkowski edged cut the Harvard duo for the final Eastern doubles position at the NCAA tournament, Henikoff and deLone's strong play this year earned them a number-35 ranking.
Henikoff says that the continuity of playing with deLone for three consecutive seasons impacted the pair's performance this past spring.
"I'm psyched, because we really played well together this year," Henikoff says. "Freshman year, we were really frustrated. Especially in doubles, it takes time to learn your partner's game. You eventually learn who is going to take the ball, and you know when your partner gets nervous, when you have to talk to her."
Next season deLone and Henikoff will travel to Taiwan to try their luck on the professional doubles tennis circuit. Henikoff says that if she and deLone can win enough rounds of tennis in the pros, the duo would be eligible for the Virginia Slims and U.S. Open.
Finally, in her senior year, Henikoff garnered several awards reflecting her achievements.
In addition to being named All-Ivy in both singles and doubles, Henikoff received the regional ITCA Sportsmanship Award for her decidedly un-McEnroesque courtside manners.
"She was vital to us as a leader," Graham says. "She deserves a lot of credit for the way she handled herself as co-captain. I can't say enough about the job she did for us."
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