Soon after she was born, Hailey Simon was diagnosed with fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss. The condition prevents her from hearing perfectly.
Simon said she has about 50 percent hearing loss, but she refuses to use it as an excuse in any phase of her life.
Her condition is what initially led her to tennis, which has been a constant passion since she started playing when she was 4 years old.
“I actually wasn’t able to play team sports when I was younger because of my hearing loss,” said Simon, who wears a hearing aid off the court, but not when she is playing tennis. “So, that is how I found tennis. I don’t know very many people who play with hearing loss. But I do know tennis has been a huge part of my life since I can remember.”
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Simon, 15, is the No. 1 player on the Ardrey Kell girls’ tennis team as a sophomore and also one of the top United States Tennis Association junior players in North Carolina.
She is ranked No. 23 in the state by USTA in U16 and No. 28 in U18, and is ranked the No. 11 sophomore in the state by tennisrecruiting.net.
It hasn’t taken first-year Ardrey Kell girls’ tennis coach Courtney Carlton long to notice what she has in Simon.
“Hailey is an amazing player and an amazing person,” said Carlton, 23, who was a standout tennis player at Providence High, graduating in 2009. “She knows what she wants to do and she knows how to do it. Hailey gives everything she has on the court and deserves everything she gets from it.”
Simon served as the No. 2 singles player behind Sarah Yuan last year as a freshman, losing just two matches. Yuan is attending the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics this year.
Simon also paired with Yuan on the Knights’ No. 1 doubles team. The duo won the SoMeck 8 conference title, the 4A Western Regional championship and went undefeated until a loss in the 4A state quarterfinals.
This year, Simon (5-foot-6) has gone 14-1 in singles’ play going into the 4A West Regional (Oct. 17-18), with her only loss coming to defending 3A state singles’ champion and Weddington senior Heidi Swope.
She is also 10-1 in doubles play with junior teammate Olivia Hooks, their only blemish against Charlotte Catholic’s Rachel Marthinsen and Megan Leonard, this year’s SoMeck 8 doubles champions.
Simon, who only lost two sets all season (both to Swope), had big victories over Myers Park’s Maddie Weber and Catholic’s Marthinsen.
She also beat Olympic High No. 1 and good friend Nicole Spencer twice, once in the regular season and once to take SoMeck 8 conference tournament championship, which she says is “one of her biggest wins to date and one of her main goals this season.”
Carlton says her Ardrey Kell team (9-2, 6-1) gets contributions from throughout the lineup with senior captains Allison Chang (No. 5 singles) and Asha Patel, sophomore Coral Levkovitz (No. 4), and freshmen Rebecca Donaldson (No. 2 doubles) and Olivia Taraboi (No. 3 singles).
“Our whole team makes me proud to coach them and reminds me of when I was playing in high school,” Carlton said.
Her high school season is coming to an end soon, but Simon still plays 2-3 tournaments a month.
Her strengths are her serve, her forehand and her mental game, the latter of which she says is most important.
“I feel like because I have played for so long and so often, I have evolved into the type of player who is mentally strong,” Simon said. “Having that mental edge can make a huge difference.”
“Hailey is a very strategic player who knows what it takes to win,” Carlton said. “She is one of the nicest people you will meet on the court, but you can see that fire in her, that determination, she hates to lose.”
Simon says she just tries to focus on her next match.
“I definitely like to win, but if I lose, I try to learn from it and move on to the next match,” Simon said. “I try to focus on the bigger picture, which is my grades and my tennis, which go hand in hand. Those are the pieces to the bigger puzzle which I hope will allow me to go to a college of my choice and keep playing tennis.”