Boys’ tennis swings into victory

Love all, 15-love, 30-love, 40-love, point, set and that is match. The excitement and adrenaline that flow when stepping onto the court is not a new feeling for the members of the Newbury Park boys’ tennis team. On the cusp of a new season, the athletes have been working tirelessly to ensure the highest success rate possible.
With try-outs the week after winter break and practice beginning the week after that, the team’s season will stretch out over the next three months until they ultimately have the opportunity to advance through CIF come May.

One of the team’s strategies has been putting a particular emphasis on getting every player communicating and involved, no matter their age or skill level, and Neil Saji, junior, has seen the immediate impact. “The NPHS team is different from other teams because we have people from all different skill levels and we’re all able to practice and play together on the same courts without feeling left out or separated,” Saji said.

This level of inclusion has helped bring the team closer and inspire new players to work harder. Joseph Bonn, junior, who reflects on the support he received his freshman year three years ago and how that encouraged him to rise in ranking. “My favorite part about playing tennis is the amount of involvement that you get, no matter the level that you’re at… A lot of sports can’t relate to that, you always have a chance to show up and work on your capabilities,” Bonn said. “I feel like that can greatly contribute to your improvement as a player and to the team as well because looking at my freshman year, you would not think that I am making contributions to the team in a year or two, but that is the case now because I’ve been able to train so much.”

In addition to encouraging team participation, the team has also employed several practices that help them to remain focused and ambitious and gain the stamina required in highly intense matches. Karthik Tholudur, senior, emphasizes the importance of playing in realistic scenarios, as opposed to mindlessly completing drills. “We practice in highly competitive situations, playing against each other rather than doing a bunch of drills, like most teams do, which means that when we come to matches and have to perform in pressure situations, we’re prepared,” Tholudur said.

Tennis has always been regarded as a highly mental game, and to combat this component, athletes have taken measures to ensure that they are as prepared as possible. “I believe that for mental fortitude in a match, it just comes down to how much training you do. Confidence comes from knowing you’ve done the work…If you know you’ve been training and know you’ve been putting in your maximum effort when it comes down to those moments where it matters, you’ll be confident rather than nervous,” Bonn said.

At the end of the day, however, mentality can only take the boys so far, and a rigorous practice schedule has been put into place. “Practice starts with us doing a lap around all of the courts. After that, we do stretches and then we do some movements to get our legs warmed up. We’ve recently incorporated stretches which is good because we hadn’t been doing that before. After that, we start [rallying] in the service boxes, and then eventually fully on the baseline to do groundstrokes. We run through all the motions like volleys, cross-court shots, serves and overheads,” Bonn said. “After that, either we play a double set or we do drills and [our] assistant coach helps us drill or watch us play doubles and gives us good tips. So there’s always a lot of stuff to learn for winter practice.”

The team is looking forward to their upcoming season, and has been tirelessly working to ensure when the time comes to perform, they will all be prepared, constantly cheering each other on, and ensuring to always play to the best of their abilities. “[The main strategy is] that you never stop pushing for the win. You just keep on going,” Saji said. “The second you give up is when you lose.”