6 min read
Her relationship with tennis has gone through many twists and turns for two decades, but now Gabriela Knutson (UTR Rating 10.98) is just a few months away from diving off the deep end into the real world. The 24-year-old couldn't be more prepared as she considers a pro career or a job hunt.
Last September, the Czech won her first pro title at the UTR Pro Tennis Tour Bulgaria Women’s $25K Clay 3. Last month, she started her 2022 season by going 10-2 on the ITF Tour. She’s hitting her stride just as her graduation date from Durham University nears in May when she'll wrap up her studies with two Master's Degrees.
From the Czech Republic to Syracuse
Although she represents the Czech Republic, Knutson was born in California. She split time between the Czech Republic and the United States for most of her childhood. Homeschooled since the fifth grade, Knutson was both a talented tennis player and skier at a young age before shifting her focus to tennis.
In 2015, Knutson would commit to the University of Syracuse. She got off to a slow start before throwing herself into improving her fitness after her sophomore season. The hard work paid off: She would lead the team at No. 1 and peak at No. 4 in the ITA Rankings before ending her U.S. college career as the Syracuse Female Athlete of the Year and a two-time All-American.
The Pursuit of Higher Education
Although she had a Bachelors's Degree in broadcast journalism, Knutson was looking for more when she graduated from Syracuse in 2019.
“After college, I was a bit tired. I was just over tennis and I wanted to go to Durham,” Knutson said. “I am No. 1 here on the team. I'm very grateful that the university treats me very well.”
In 2019, Knutson settled in at Durham University (about five hours north of London) for more tennis and schooling. She finished a Master’s Degree in Marketing in 2020 and is wrapping up a two-year program for a Master’s of Science in Sustainability, Energy, and Development.
The UK college system offers players the chance to compete as graduate students, and Knutson has made the most of it. Of course, pro tennis has always been in the back of her mind.
“I didn't think I had what it takes to turn pro
Pro Tennis Beckons
While she had played a handful of ITF tournaments before college, she didn’t try again until playing on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour in 2021. In July, she competed in her first PTT in Germany, going 5-1. A few months later, she would drop just one set in six matches to capture the PTT Bulgaria Women’s $25K Clay 3 title.
By seeing where she stood amongst top players, Knutson could start to make the educated decision to give pro tennis a real try.
“If I'm not injured and if I play other PTTs
It helps that the PTT offers a unique round-robin format (meaning multiple matches for every player) and guaranteed prize money.
“At PTTs, you have the same players
Ready to Launch
She’s now finding her footing on all tours. In January, Knutson reached the semifinals of two ITF W25’s in the United Kingdom, both times as a qualifier. She's ranked a career-high No. 773 on the ITF Tour and No. 598 on the PTT, with more PTT events on her radar.
“What I gave to tennis in terms of my social life, money, my parent’s time, everything, I feel like I'm gaining all of it back,” Knutson said. “I'm still in debt to tennis, but I'm slowly reaching an even playing field. I worried that if I went pro I'd start losing that, but with the PTT you can continue gaining, which is amazing.”
Come May, she’ll be gaining even more as she takes on the pro tour full-time or the real world, equipped with a Bachelor’s and two Master’s Degrees.
“I think once I'm finished with Durham, I'll definitely go play a few more Universal Tennis events to see where I'm at again," Knutson said. "And then I'll decide based on that if I take the pro plunge or to get a job.”