Meet Fiona Crawley, the shining star of the North Carolina Tar Heels, whose tennis prowess earned her a coveted spot at this year’s U.S. Open. While her journey at the tournament may have been short-lived, a fascinating aspect of her NCAA eligibility added a twist to the event.
In a spirited showdown on a Tuesday, Crawley went head-to-head against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but unfortunately, victory slipped through her fingers in straight sets. Adding to her efforts, Crawley joined forces with her partner Carson Tanguilig in the doubles match, yet victory eluded them once again, as they faced a formidable duo – Irina Khromacheva and Daria Seville.
The allure of participating in the U.S. Open was undeniable, offering Crawley a chance to secure some extra cash. Yet, like a compelling plot twist, there was a catch: accepting the prize money on offer could potentially jeopardize her precious NCAA eligibility. The temptation was significant – an $81,000 paycheck awaited her in the main draw. However, the NCAA’s regulations cast a shadow of doubt.
For players in the world of tennis, the opportunity to claim prize money is a possibility, as long as the earnings stay below the $10,000 mark in any given calendar year, and the source of the funds is the official event sponsor. After reaching this cap, any additional prize money must align with the actual expenses incurred during subsequent events within the same year.
In the midst of her journey at the U.S. Open, the spirited Crawley reflected on the situation with a blend of incredulity and determination, expressing, “I wouldn’t dare risk my eligibility for a sum of money. But it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that while football and basketball players are striking million-dollar NIL deals, I’m left unable to embrace the rewards I’ve diligently worked for.” Her candid thoughts were shared via the lens of the Raleigh News & Observer.
Crawley’s accomplishments in the world of tennis stand tall. She’s earned the coveted titles of the 2023 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year and the 2023 ACC Player of the Year. With an enviable track record of 123 victories and only 11 losses in collegiate singles matches, and an equally impressive 75 wins and just 4 losses in doubles matches, Crawley’s dedication to her craft is an inspiration in its own right.