At some point, this might stop being fun for Alexis King. The hours spent in the car, driving from one tournament to another, raising two kids along the way. The qualifying tournaments, juggling work life as an instructor with her tennis career.
At 31, most tennis players would be at the point where age and activity combine to wear the tread on the tires of most careers, as sore muscles and joints give way to skill erosion and earlier exits.
But today is not that day for King, the University of Florida graduate who has found peace of mind and success on the USTA Pro Circuit Tour, and on Tuesday qualified for the main draw of the $10,000 Hilton Head event, hosted by the Van der Meer Tennis Center.
Now in its 22nd year, the tournament welcomes young professional players looking to add up ranking points and reputation in order to hopefully launch themselves into the WTA.
For King, that is an aspiration that, in all reality, has come and gone. But her competitive spirit is far from extinguished.
This week, back at the place where she took the singles title in 2010, is the first time she has had to survive the qualifying bracket.
She remained calm and was happy to have a spot in the main draw, and another match to play.
"It's very special to me," King said. "This is the first tournament I won after having my second child. I love the atmosphere. The beach is right up the road. Bringing the kids, it's almost like a vacation."
King said she likes the courts, seeing friends she has made in past appearances on the island, and the intimate setting the tournament offers. At this point in her career, King said her goal is to enjoy the competition and play as much as she can.
"Just to have the ability to come out and be able to play at my age, and play and compete against these girls, is enough for me," King said.
King is in a different place then most of the young players at this week's event, most of whom are between 18 and 24. She said she relishes the opportunity to mentor some of them, and steer a few of the college-bound athletes toward Gainseville and the perennially powerful Gators tennis program.
In between tournaments, she raises her two home-schooled daughters, Imani, 9, and Maniah, 5.
"We can take them with us, they can kind of hang in there when we've got to get up for the matches early in the morning," King said. "They're kind of used to this."
At one point, King was ranked as high as No. 345 in the world, but if her overall goals have changed, her desire to win hasn't.
"When I'm sitting at home -- some tournaments I don't play -- I'll still look at the draws," King said. "I do get riled up about it. But all in all, I'm just happy to be playing. For me it's almost like a getaway. "
Play in the 32-player main draw began Tuesday and continues Wednesday.
USTA Pro Circuit ITF Head/First Federal Women's $10,000
Tuesday at Van Der Meer Tennis Center