When Jenny Mainz received an email from an Oklahoma tennis player who was pondering a transfer, the Alabama head coach did her research.
She asked several Big12 coaches what they thought of Ann Selim, a former 5-star recruit who was born in Egypt, but trained in California.
Every coach Mainz talked to shared a similar scouting report: Selim is competitive.
“I talked to several coaches who had competed against her in the Big 12 and they were all very complimentary of Ann, just the way that she conducted herself, the way she competed on the court,” Mainz said. “They all said that she’s a worker, that she competes hard, that she’s going to go out there and give you everything she has.”
Mainz got to see firsthand what others had told her when Selim fell in love with Alabama during a visit and transferred to the Crimson Tide.
Selim lived up to the hype, mirroring the passionate player she had been billed as.
“She’s vibrant and spirited,” Mainz said. “That’s what I think makes her a great competitor in many ways.”
Selim’s competitive itch was fostered at a young age, when she first watched her older brother, Antony, play competitive tennis in Cairo.
“He picked tennis and I was like ‘OK, yeah I can play too,’” Selim said. “He started competing before me and watching him compete made me enjoy tennis a lot more and made me want to compete as well.”
Compete she did, and at a very high level.
After playing in tournaments around Egypt, as well as some in Morocco and Indonesia, Selim and her family recognized that the best opportunity for her to further her career was in America, where the competition level was higher and more abundant. Selim’s family had a connection with the owner of Capistrano Connections Academy in Irvine, California, so she moved there to train at age 15 with her mother and brother.
Although moving thousands of miles from home to a different country could prove difficult for most teens, Selim adjusted quickly, in part because she was surrounded by other international players sharing her same goal. Also, she was fluent in English, which she learned at an American school in Egypt.
The move was much harder on Selim’s mother.
“It was very difficult for my mom because she knew how to speak English, but not so well,” Selim said. “The language difference was a bit scary for her. Obviously the culture is different, but my brother and I adapted pretty quickly.”
As Selim adjusted to her new life, she continued to build her reputation as an elite player. Her dominant play in tournaments led to her being ranked the No. 32 overall recruit in the country and the No. 8 player in the state of California.
When Selim arrived in Tuscaloosa, Mainz was impressed with her well-rounded game. Yet she saw room for improvement. Selim was consistent from the baseline, which allowed her to grind out long, physically-draining points. But Mainz wanted Selim to pair that consistency with aggression, to strike the ball sooner and grab control of points.
“She’s very consistent, she’s very patient, she can run down balls,” Mainz said. “She can be that backboard, but I always tell her you want to add to your game. You want to continue to add bricks to the house. …She’s bought into playing more aggressively and more authoritatively. I think she can trust herself and do it even more so and as she does that, she’ll take her tennis to another level.”
Not only has Selim’s more assertive style translated to positive result in singles — she boasts a record of 7-2 this spring — it has also helped her in doubles, according to her partner, Kim Gintrand.
“She’s been more aggressive and is moving way more at the net in doubles,” Gintrand said “She’s one of the more competitive players I’ve seen. She doesn’t care what people think or say, she’s going to play.”
This season, Selim and Gintrand have lost only one doubles match to No. 21 UCF.
Selim, a junior studying mechanical engineering, has grown as a player under the tutelage of Mainz. With the majority of this season and the next still in front of her, Mainz expects Selim to continue developing.
“She’s got a lot of growth still and I still think she has her best tennis in front of her,” Mainz said.
Alabama is scheduled to play No. 22 Illinois on Friday at 9 a.m. in Montgomery in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic.