By Martina Flori
An Ole Miss senior journalism major and member of the women’s tennis team is competing in her last collegiate semester. Natalie Suk, a native of the Czech Republic, is a leader on and off the court who is continuing her family’s tennis tradition.
Suk was born May 8, 1996, in Bradenton, Florida. She comes from a Czech family of tennis players. Natalie is the daughter of Cyril Suk and Lenka Sukova. Her dad played tennis professionally and won the 1998 U.S. Open Men’s Doubles Championship.
Suk’s aunt, Helena Sukova, was also a professional tennis player. She won three mixed doubles titles during her career with Natalie’s dad. The family tradition started with Natalie’s grandmother, who played professionally and was a singles finalist at Wimbledon in 1962.
“My earliest tennis memory is hitting balls with my dad,” Suk said. “I was only 5 years old when he took me to those courts in Bradenton, and he taught me how to hit the ball for the first time. It is something I could never forget.”
Suk began playing tennis at age of 5, with her dad teaching her the basics of the game. “It was love at first sight with tennis,” she said. “I remember I immediately fell in love with the game and wanted to play everyday.”
She started competing in junior tournaments at the age of 12 and was fascinated by competition. “Since I started playing in my very first events, I remember how badly I wanted to win every point, game and set,” she said. “Tennis is a very competitive sport, and it pushes me everyday to get better. That’s what I love the most about it.”
Suk was raised in Florida and the Czech Republic. During her growth as a tennis player, she competed in both countries. “Both Florida and Czech Republic have lots of good players, and this helped me to be where I am today,” Suk said about competing in Europe and United States.
She achieved a career-high ranking of No. 79 in the Czech Republic Women’s Ranking and 1100 in the Women’s Tennis Association singles rankings. Her competitiveness has resulted in many career successes. She reached the singles semifinals at the International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit tournament in Orlando and three ITF Pro Circuit doubles semifinals.
Before attending Ole Miss, Suk attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, a boarding school that offers integrated academic and athletic college preparatory experience across eight sports – baseball, basketball, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and track and field and cross country.
“IMG has helped me grow a lot as an athlete and teenager, and has fully prepared me for college,” she admitted.
Before choosing Ole Miss, Suk had many offers from different schools, including Florida and Missouri. She decided to attend Ole Miss because she liked the program, the coaching staff, and: “It felt like home when I visited for the first time,” she said.
Suk began her career as an Ole Miss Rebel with a ranking of No. 24 in the nation as a freshman in the 2014-2015 season. She has been successful throughout her college career, playing at No. 2 singles and helping the Rebels have an NCAA appearance for three consecutive years.
Suk has an outstanding academic record, receiving many honors during her collegiate career, including the SEC Academic Honor Roll, the Chancellor’s Honor Roll, and she is also a three-time ITA Scholar-Athlete.
Not only is Suk following in her family’s footsteps, she was followed to Ole Miss by longtime friend Anna Vrbenska, a sophomore tennis player from the Czech Republic. Suk and Vrbenska played in doubles tournaments in the Czech Republic when they were only 13, and today they play together for the Ole Miss Rebels.
“I remember me and Natalie playing together in Czech when we were young teenagers,” Vrbenska said. “We have always been close friends since we were young, and we have always had a good chemistry on the court.”
Suk has been a mentor for Vrbenska. “Natalie has been fundamental for my experience here at Ole Miss,” she said. “Being far away from home, it’s not easy, and she has helped me out a lot. It would have not been the same without her. She has been like a big sister in the past two years for me.”