Katrina Scott held a racquet accidentally when she was seven. Following one of her weekly ice skating lessons, Scott's mom wasn't able to pick her up and she would end up going home with a friend who had a tennis lesson to get to. Scott would end up joining in on her friend's lesson and never looked back.
Fast forward to August 2020, only nine years later, and the 16-year-old California native is prepping for her first main draw Grand Slam appearance. Due to many player withdraws, Scott received exciting news just last week that she had received a wild card.
"When I first found out, I had just got out of the shower and my mom was like 'you got in,'" Scott tells Baseline. "I was like there's no way, are you kidding me? So many people had to pull out and it was a week before the tournament, I was so excited when I got it. I was on a flight the next day."
Although the news was shocking for Scott, it's not at all surprising that she was on the wild card alternate list given her track record on the tennis court. The American has had an impressive junior career: in 2019 she reached the quarterfinals of the junior US Open and the round of 16 of junior Wimbledon.
Last year in New York—when she was just 15—she won a round in the qualifying event over Katie Swan before falling to Anna Kalinskaya. She's only really been competing on the pro tour for a year and boasts a 12-8 winning record (mostly on the ITF tour).
After making the decision to turn pro late last year she signed with Topnotch Management. The sports management company also works with other American players like John Isner, Alison Riske, and Reilly Opelka.
"Pro was the goal the entire time and then last year when I signed, the time was right, and I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," Scott says.
The world No. 637 planned to play a series of ITF events in the spring but COVID-19 had other plans. With much of the sports world at a standstill, she was anything but still. Scott used the time to train and improve on tactics and technique for when play resumed.
"Obviously it was a difficult time for everybody in tennis and not," Scott says. "I had to tell myself that there's something to look forward to, and that this wasn't going to last forever. At the time we had no idea if the US Open was going to be played, so we just planned on it being played. That really helped me stay in the zone and keep training, even when it got so long."
Bumping into Petra Kvitova and Denis Shapovalov in the hallways of Arthur Ashe Stadium is surreal for Scott, but she isn't succumbing to nerves and pressure. Instead, she's soaking in the moment and enjoying how far she's come.
"The best part of tennis is seeing yourself grow," she says. "Last year, I was playing juniors, which was awesome. It's the step-by-step and improving so much and it's really cool to see. I'm super grateful for the opportunity to be here, and these people that I've watched on TV—I'm playing with one of them—and they don't know who I am. They think I'm just another person here who's playing the tournament."
She will be taking on world No. 130 Natalia Vikhlyantseva.
Although she will be competing on one of the biggest stages in tennis very soon, she's got some experience to help her settle in. Last year in the qualifying draw of San Jose, she took on Timea Babos in her WTA debut. Surrounded by a packed crowd, Scott fell to the world No. 101 in three tight sets.
Competing so well against a great player reassured Scott that she belonged on tour.
"In five years I'm hoping that I will be playing all the Premiere events, the Grand Slams and going far in them," she says. "Hopefully winning, of course, that's always the goal, traveling with my team and living the dream life."
The teens sights are set high and her New York debut will offer an opportunity to continue developing. For now, Scott is living her best bubble life by hitting the arcade and improving her golf game at the on-site simulator.
She'll get to show off her tennis game on Tuesday.
"I'm ready to show what I've got," Scott says.