5 Minutes With… Alison Riske


Up-and-coming American Alison Riske has made quite the run at the 2014 Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies, taking down Australian Casey Dellacqua before upsetting six-seed Flavia Pennetta to reach the quarterfinals. The 24-year-old Pittsburgh native recently caught up with us to chat about her love for New Haven, an imagined retirement destination, her first tennis memory and more.

MORE: 5 Minutes With… Series | Updated Draws | Order of Play

Connecticut Open Blog: Would you talk a little bit about your sister, Sarah. Is she still playing a coach role?
Alison Riske: My sister had actually been my coach and traveling partner for my first two years on tour, so she is not new to this. Just in the last few weeks, I wanted someone to help me on court. But I also wanted someone to keep me in good spirits off the court. So I asked Sarah, and her boss actually let her go for a month, and allowed her to come travel with me, which was amazing. Sarah works as a sales representative in Nashville. So we’ve been having a great time. Obviously it’s nice to win a few matches with her as well.

CTO: Tell me a little about Nashville. I know you spent some time there as you considered to go to Vanderbilt, but decided not to go and instead turn pro.
Alison Riske: It is one of the best cities. It’s definitely on my radar for retiring places. [Laughter.] It’s super eclectic and just a fun town.

CTO: If I were to go to Nashville, what are three must-do things?
Alison Riske: Well you have to visit the Vanderbilt campus. You also have to go to Pancake Pantry. They have the best pancakes and the line will be all over the street, but so worth it. Also, there’s a place called Pangea that has a lot of funky jewelry and clothes, which is my favorite.

CTO: With a last name like Riske, do you have any nicknames, or best/worst headlines that you’ve ever seen?
Alison Riske: Well, I get “Risky Business” all the time, or “it’s a Riske Business” because there are three of us Riske girls that played tennis growing up. Also, “Riske It for a Biscuit.” Shelby Rogers actually coined that one. [Laughter.] It basically means you go for it and if you make it, you get a reward.

CTO: What about your love for New Haven. What is it about this tournament that you enjoy?
Alison Riske: I absolutely love the people here. When I come back it’s like a reunion. It’s always good to see Anne Worcester, who is great as a Tournament Director. Even the racquet stringers are very personable. It’s just a great group a people, a great site and really laid back. I could go on-and-on, really. Obviously it’s in America, so it’s great playing in your home country. It’s also a week before the US Open, so you can feel the excitement. And the catering is amazing!

CTO: What is your go-to catering item?
Alison Riske: The breakfast bacon! But I only have one or two pieces. [Smiling.]

CTO: So we read you would have gone into medicine if you would have decided to go to Vanderbilt.
Alison Riske: I was always very interested in the way people function, so probably more along the lines of psychology. I always liked the sciences a lot, so that was the reason I thought about that. Who knows what the future holds, but I think that would be a great achievement.

CTO: What’s your earliest memory of playing tennis?
Alison Riske: I was playing a 10 and under tournament, and I split sets. I lost the second set and thought it meant I lost. So I went off and was crying to my Mom. Then she said, “Al, you have to play a third set.” I said, “You have to be joking, this is the worst.” [Laughter.] I ended up winning because I was so relaxed, and then I ended up winning the tournament.

Sounds like a good strategy moving forward! Thanks, Alison. Good luck!

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