While most 16-year-olds are snug in their beds, Ellyse Hamlin is up at 5 a.m. so she can catch the 6:07 Metro North train to Grand Central Station. Once there, she hops on the 7-train to Queens and arrives at United States Tennis Association's training center a little after 8.
After nine hours of grueling workouts, Hamlin retraces her steps on two trains and finally gets back to her Fairfield home at about 7:30 p.m. Then it's time to do some work for the high school courses she takes online.
It's a demanding schedule for a teenager, but it's part of the commitment Hamlin and her family have made to her budding tennis career. And Hamlin can't get enough of it.
"I like going there, I like training," Hamlin said. "I've been working really hard on and off the court. On the court, I've been putting my game together and becoming an all-around better player.
"Playing the way I'm playing is a lot of fun."
Hamlin is ranked No. 3 nationally among 16-and-under players. She is No. 1 in both Connecticut and New England.
"I'm really starting to see what the lower-level pro level is like," Hamlin said. "I see that I can play with them and higher."
As part of her USTA training, Hamlin gets instruction from three tennis coaches and two fitness coaches. Jay Devashetty is among her instructors who has seen growth in Hamlin's game.
"I saw a lot of potential," Devashetty said. "She had a good overall game, but it needed some refining and physically she needed to get better. She's gotten a lot more confident."
Hamlin turned 16 in November. She is enrolled in the Laurel Springs School, a California-based Internet school that gives her the flexibility to devote 14 hours some days to tennis. According to her mom, Anne, she has a 3.85 grade-point average.
Since her parents pulled Hamlin from traditional school three years ago to train more, the teenager's ranking has soared.
While attending Tomlinson Middle School in 2009, she has ranked 153rd in her age group. Two years later, she was 18th.
"It's not that she came out of nowhere," Ginley said. "But the efficiency at which she jumped is pretty wild."
In addition to committing the time to train, Ginley and Hamlin both credit her consistency as the main cause of improvement.
"Eight of the highest level tournaments, she's gotten to the quarters," Ginley said. "The only time she didn't was because of an injury."
Devashetty sees that consistency through hard work.
"I think she's improving day by day," he said. "She's putting the time in."
College or pro?
With such a meteoric rise, college coaches began taking notice and haven't stopped. TennisRecruting.net ranks her the No. 6 singles prospect, referring to her as a "blue-chip, five-star" prospect.
Yet, Hamlin's continued rise has thrown another wrinkle into her post-high school plans. Two years ago, college was a foregone conclusion. Now, that may not be the case.
"We always assumed she was going to go to college, but we always assumed she was going to play professionally ... whether it was after graduating college or (after) one or two years of college," Ginley said. "It's probably only now that we have people assisting with her development that they're kind of showing her the big picture."
The allure of a professional career has made Hamlin think about her options as well.
"It's not set in stone," Hamlin said. "Sometimes I want to go to college, sometimes I want to go pro."
College coaches who have watched Hamlin have noticed her improvement and are just hoping for the opportunity to coach her.
"One coach who I respect, who wants her pretty badly, met me ... and he goes, `It's just going to be too bad that we won't get to coach Ellyse,'" Ginley said, "And I was like, `What are you talking about?' And he said, `She has to turn pro.'"
One factor that argues against college is NCAA restrictions on practice time, which Ginley believes could stunt her development.
"You're only allowed to practice 20 hours per week," he said. "Now she practices 30-plus hours. To go and be forced to practice less ... you've got to make decisions based on her development."
Yet, as a parent, Ginley still has college in the picture.
"I guess we thought we'd have time," he said. "I don't think there needs to be this rush to jump on the pro tour ... her game takes a little longer to develop. The college thing is an issue. It's something we're trying to figure out."
Whatever the case, Ginley believes Hamlin's demeanor -- which he calls the biggest reason for her success -- will not fail her.
"She's got a great disposition on the court," he said. "She doesn't act out, she doesn't bang her racquet. She's really developed a powerful persona ... and I think that if she loses, she doesn't think she's the worst player in the world. She understands that losing is a part of the game."
Devashetty believes all that could lead her to some rarefied air.
"She could be a top professional if she keeps improving," Devashetty said. "That's the goal, she has the ability to do it."