El Cajon's Mohamad forges a professional tennis career through challenges and roadblocks - USTA Southern California
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El Cajon’s Mohamad forges a professional tennis career through challenges and roadblocks

The SoCal Pro Circuit could not have come at a better time for Shatoo Mohamad.

The 21-year-old from El Cajon had not played a tournament in 26 months before gaining main-draw acceptance into all three recent San Diego stops of the new circuit created by the USTA Southern California for players just like Mohamad. “Now that I’m finally healed, I need to play tournaments,” said Mohamad during her one week off as the tour next shifts to Los Angeles for three more consecutive weeks of events that Mohamad plans to play in beginning Tuesday, June 28. “My biggest fear was I didn’t want to drop a thousand dollars to just fly to another country and play one tournament and come back home. This Pro Circuit literally came at the best time for me.”

Mohamad, who decided to turn professional three years ago after graduating from Granite Hills High in San Diego County, had low expectations for her first tournaments back and lost in the first round in Rancho Santa Fe, fell to the eventual finalist in her first match at the University of San Diego and was forced to retire after pulling a hamstring in the first set at the Barnes Tennis Center tournament. Now it’s off to L.A. where Mohamad hopes to kick start the slow start to her pro career. “Traveling to a tournament coming off an injury was the last thing I wanted to do – the losses hurt a little bit more,” Mohamad reiterated. “The fact that I get to come out here and travel to L.A. and get my confidence back is such a blessing.

”The Barnes Tennis Center event held special meaning for Mohamad who is coached by Barnes CEO Ryan Redondo’s uncle Walter Redondo. The Redondo clan is synonymous with tennis in San Diego tennis circles. Said Mohamad: “They’ve really taken me in as family. They’ve been the best to me.” Mohamad’s own family history is remarkable as her father and mother were granted political asylum and settled in San Diego at the height of the Kurdish Geocide in the late 1990s having lived in the Kurdish province in North Iraq. “They came here because they were going to be killed,” said Mohamad, “I have lost a lot of family members to the war. It’s something I would like to raise more awareness of in the future.” Mohamad joined her first tennis clinic at just 7 years old through the Helix NJTL program. At age 12, she was assisting with beginner lessons in exchange for her own higher-level lessons. By the time she was 17, she was doing her own lessons for the non-profit East County Community Tennis Association.

“Everything I have ever made just goes back to my tennis and helps me play on tour,” she said. “Tennis has changed my life and I feel like I kind of owe it to the sport to give back a little.”

Shortly after turning professional and just 18 years old, Mohamad turned to social media to express thoughtful insight on her journey, and her hopes that others will follow her lead. In that Facebook post, she wrote:

“I have a unique platform that will only grow as I become more successful, and I really do believe I can empower so many girls and women to get involved in a sport or to just stay active. I personally have not seen many girls in our community getting involved athletically and I want to change that. I would love to see Kurds more open and understanding that playing a professional sport is also a great career…I want to prove to everyone that anyone, especially a Kurdish girl can become a professional athlete and be the best at it. It’s definitely not easy… but the most important thing is, I know I can make it. My parents have sacrificed a lot for me to be in the position I am in now. Every single day, our focus is on tennis and how to improve.”

Mohamad did give college tennis a thought but said couldn’t resist passing up on her dream of playing professional tennis right out of high school. “When I was 17, I got into an event in Greece and was able to win a WTA point,” Mohamad explained. “Now I know that it’s only one point, but that one point changed everything. It was the passion for tennis I had, and I realized right then that this is what I wanted to do. School always came easy to me, so I thought I could always go back. But I’ve realized I don’t really want to go to college. I still have opportunities in coaching alone once I’m done playing. I really just want to do tennis full-time, whether it’s playing on the pro tour or coaching or running tournaments or whatever.”

Her goals today are simple.

“Play locally, have some fun and hopefully stay healthy!”