For Ena Shibahara, representing Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games was the fulfillment of a dream she had been working towards since she first began playing tennis as a young girl in California.
Surrounded by a family of tennis players, Shibihara always knew tennis was the sport for her as she learned the game from her father and two older brothers who immediately sparked the love of tennis in Shibahara.
“I fell in love as soon as I made contact with the ball for the first time,” says Shibahara. “It was the best feeling ever and I never wanted to stop.”
At the junior level, Shibahara consistently proved herself to be one of the top junior players in the entire nation earning the designation as the top prospect in the state of California.
Gaining interest from many of the top schools around the country, Shibahara decided to attend the University of California, Los Angeles where she would go on to be one of the most dominant players in Pac 12 history.
Here at UCLA, Shibahara not only took home many accolades for her play on the court but learned many lessons that would help her in her professional career to come.
“The biggest thing I learned in college was how to take care of myself and to be independent,” noted Shibahara. “Being on tour, there are many challenges and obstacles that cannot be controlled sometimes, but college tennis taught me how to deal with these tough moments and adversities.”
Deciding to take that next leap in her career after her Sophomore season in 2018, Shibahara began playing on the WTA tour where she has carried over this success ever since.
In just three short years, Shibihara has already won eight tour titles, including five in 2021, and has appeared in multiple Grand Slams including both the Australian Open and French Open to start the 2022 Grand Slam season.
However, even with all of this success, one moment in Shibahara’s already decorated career stands out more than any other; representing Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“It was such an honor playing for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics,” stated Shibahara. “It was an incredible feeling to be able to accomplish one of my biggest dreams within such a short amount of time. And it meant more to me because I was able to keep my promise to my grandparents that I would play in the Tokyo Olympics for Japan. The whole experience was very special.”
Even though the result at the Olympic games wasn’t what Shibahara wanted, she still ranks as the highest Japanese doubles player in the world while continuing to improve her game.
From a young girl who had Olympic dreams to one of the top players in the world, Shibahara continues to inspire and serve as a role model for the next generation of female tennis players to come.