Chan and Dy: tennis hotshots with differing approaches

By Tiffany Ran
Northwest Asian Weekly

UW tennis players Denise Dy (left) and Venise Chan (Photo by Richard McEnery)

The Huskies were warned that Cal was a good team with good fighters.

“You have to bring your pro-game out, because it’s time,” said UW Assistant Coach Damon Coupe to Junior Venise Chan, currently listed as No. 17 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s recent rankings.

The 25th ranked University of Washington’s women’s team faced off against the 12th ranked University of California, Berkeley, women’s team on Saturday, April 10.

Fourth-ranked sophomore Denise Dy knew from the beginning that it was going to be a long match. This game was the Huskies’ final home game of the year and the final home appearance for graduating senior players Aleksandra Malovic, Joyce Ardies, and Lauren Summers. Their graduation leaves Dy and Chan to lead the team.

The road to becoming Huskies

Dy and Chan are known among their peers as the UW’s top-20 duo. The recruitment of Dy and Chan for the women’s team marked the first time since 2005 that the women’s team had anyone in the top 20.

San Jose-native Dy was primarily based in the Philippines during high school and represented the country in international juniors, the Fed Cup, the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, and the Southeast Asian Games. As a result, Dy and her family juggle their lives in both countries, flying between their homes in northern California and the Philippines.

Hong Kong-native Chan has traveled and competed all over the world in countries like Syria, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Thailand.

At 3 years old, Chan was introduced to tennis. At that time, tennis was her father’s hobby, and he was in the middle of trying to coach Chan’s older sister. He soon discovered that his youngest was more interested in the sport. Chan’s father has accompanied and watched all of her matches.

Chan’s mother was her organizer and a source of encouragement. She reminded Chan to maintain a healthy diet and to focus on her schoolwork as much as she focused on tennis.

Chan was offered a scholarship and a chance to play No. 1 singles with the University of Washington after coach Jill Hultquist saw her playing at the U.S. Open Junior tournament. Chan signed without even visiting the campus. She was attracted to the UW’s academic reputation. She came to Seattle for the first time one week before classes started.. She then played (and won) her first college match against Cal’s Marina Cossou a month later.

Due to  her career, Dy started looking into colleges late. She might’ve gone to Berkeley, had the school not offered out their last position to another player.

The duo signed on at a time when the Huskies were still crawling out of the bottom among intercollegiate teams.

Going up against Cal

The Huskies were defeated in all three doubles matches. Chan and teammate Lina Xu were defeated 8–0 against Cal’s Marina Cossou and Kasia Siwosz. Dy and teammate Joyce Ardies were defeated 8–6 against Cal’s Mari Andersson and Jana Juricova.

Singles games started after the doubles. Dy played against Marina Cossou and Chan against Jana Juricova.

Chan defeated Juricova the year before, when Juricova was ranked No. 16. This year, however, Juricova was ranked third. In previous games, Chan noted that Juricova liked to hit the ball with a forehand strike and that she was very powerful in her strategy.

“I know her game because I played her before, but it goes both ways because she knows my game,” said Chan.

Venise Chan (Photo by Spencer Selvidge)

Chan’s match

Chan took the first set 6–4. Juricova responded with a 6–1 second set win.

“I think it was the start of the second set that I could’ve done better because I wasn’t focusing as much as I could. I was constantly trying to tell myself to push harder and play better, but it didn’t go my way,” said Chan.

At one point between sets, while Chan took her water break, assistant coach Coupe instructed Chan to hit through the opponent’s middle as to not give her an angle to return the shot.

Chan’s started to feel tired during the third set, but mentally, she really wanted to win. Her determination was evident from the close match that ensued.

“I was thinking more of what I should do at that present moment. I try not to think about the points that have been played already,” said Chan.

Juricova opened with a 5–2 lead before Chan won the next two games to pull within 5–4. Chan had enough game points to tie it up, but Juricova defeated Chan on her second match point and took the deciding set, 6–4.

Teammates and friends

Dy was playing in the adjacent court and between sets, Chan stood and watched Dy play, cheering her on. Both in playing styles and in personality, Chan and Dy could not be more different.  Shy and school-oriented, Chan approaches each game in a direct and thoughtful manner. Fierce and outgoing, Dy powers through each game despite fatigue or injury.

Dy hit her first ball when she was 9 years old and took up the sport along with Taekwondo. She started playing tennis exclusively by age 11 but struggled with the challenge of starting late. Most of the athletes she played against started playing at age 7. She struggled to catch up for the next few years, competing around the country until the Philippines approached Dy about playing for them in ITF tournaments.

Denise Dy (Photo by Spencer Selvidge)

Dy’s match

Dy dominated the first set, scoring 6–3 and 4–3 against Cossou. Cossou responded aggressively in the next few games, and Dy ended up losing three straight games to give up the set, 6–4. Cossou led 5–3 in the third, but Dy fought back, evening out the score to 5–5, saving four match points in the process only to lose in the next game. Cossou held on and took the win.

At one point, Dy sighed in frustration and muttered “Oh my god” to herself after failing to return Cossou’s shot.

“I’ve played against Marina Cossou once before and seen her play many times. She is known for battling and fighting for every point. The day before, I had to play a long match against Stanford in which I played a total of four hours for doubles and singles. I was a bit sore coming in against Cal,” said Dy.

Moving forward

The locker room was rather quiet that day with the exception of everyone congratulating Malovic for the lone victory on her singles court.

“I should’ve won this match,” Chan said to her teammates. “It was a close one. If I can rematch, I’d have focused much more and start better on the second set.”

The once-frustrated Dy was calm. She acknowledged that at one point in her career, suppressing anger and disappointment was one of her biggest problems.

“I think the biggest part of my success this past year was handling and improving this part of my game. Now, I think of mistakes as a minor obstacle that I can jump over,” said Dy.

After a losing game, Dy, at the very least, had a good nap to look forward to and another game in which to prove herself. Chan, on the other hand, ate a good meal and, much in line with her character, dove straight into her school work, believing that she is best able to focus after having played a game.

In recent years, Chan and Dy have won many games for the Huskies. Chan’s collected and methodical approach and Dy’s resilient spirit are brought into every game. They will serve to lead a new generation of Huskies in the coming year. There are still a few off-site games left in the season, including the upcoming match against Washington State University.

That will be a whole other game. ♦

Tiffany Ran can be reached at

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