Megan McCray is an ace in singles and with singles.
McCray, of Oceanside, recently won the Shoebacca Women’s Open Wild Card Tournament, which is a big deal for someone carving their niche in professional tennis.
Also of late, she cut a single with her sister, Morgan. It’s called “Human Nature” a song made popular by Michael Jackson.
By recording a win on the court, McCray, 24, gains entry into next month’s $25,000 Shoebacca Women’s Open at Rancho Santa Fe’s Morgan Run Club and Resort.
“I’m excited to play in it,” McCray said. “But first is the qualifying tournament in Indian Wells.”
Such is the life of those living the grind of making the big time. Not everyone is Serena Williams or Roger Federer, competitors that collect millions for hitting a fuzzy yellow ball deep into a court’s corners.
There are thousands of men and women like McCray, who are not only chasing that fuzzy yellow ball but a dream that keeps them awake at night.
“Definitely the goal someday is to get to a grand slam event and winning a major,” McCray said. “That would be the ultimate.”
McCray has encountered grand slam greatness. While shopping she met Carlsbad’s Rod Laver, the winner of 11 grand slam titles, and it left McCray in awe and motivated.
“He was really nice,” McCray said. “He said to keep going.”
McCray does, as she crisscrosses the country seeking winners and dollars. One leads to another, but it’s an expensive trek that can leave players on the wrong side of the ledger.
“It’s hard when you go all the way to Florida and the hotel rooms are $200 a night,” McCray said. “It can get pretty expensive out there.”
But in there, as with McCray, is what makes athletes, athletes. They have that DNA, that drive, that gritty demeanor that tells them to keep pushing on despite obstacles that would push others away.
McCray’s story is the stuff of fairy tales and she’s searching for the ultimate happy ending. Her family was cruising past an Oceanside park when spotting a sign plugging tennis lessons for kids.
McCray and her sister joined and soon the love of tennis had gotten under their skin. McCray would go to win two junior national hardcourt titles.
She did so by relying on her powerful groundstrokes. It was from the baseline she defeated Amy Huang, 6-4, 6-2 in the Shoebacca Wild Card final, although McCray produced slices and off-speed offerings to keep Huang off balance.
Now McCray, who is ranked No. 811 by the International Tennis Federation, doesn’t have to fret about working her way into a tournament against others with higher pedigrees.
“It means a lot because I’ve always had to do the qualifying tournaments and it’s tough with my ranking,” McCray said. “I don’t play as many tournaments as other players because it is crazy expensive to do so.”
McCray, who graduated from Escondido’s Classical Academy, was a standout her freshman year at Oklahoma State. She left after that year, only to return two years later when she was 23 and still having eligibility. McCray starred again for the Cowboys, while at the same time lassoing wins on the pro circuit’s lower levels.
The books are behind her and the matches, and her music, are front and center.
“I just enjoy hitting the ball and competing, and I like music at the same time,” said McCray, who sings and plays synthesizer while her sister adds keyboards.
“With tennis I like to move and be active all the time. It feels amazing to win matches after all the hard work you put into it. It’s really, really cool.”
So is McCray and her quest to be something special. Although she already is while embracing the journey despite not knowing its final destination.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports