In the world of tennis, rankings are important, but not THAT important. Not quite like boxing, where the champion defends his belt and the competitors try to attain the rank of No. 2 for a bout with the champ. In tennis, ranking is just a collection of rank points over many tournaments played. This means No. 1 has the most points and that No. 2 could beat No. 1 in any given match and it wouldn’t mean a thing.
This gives USF’s Thai Tu some motivation.
Tu will be one of the few representing USF in this years 3rd Annual Battle In The Bay Men’s Tennis tournament that will feature 32 of the highest ranked individuals from USF, Cal, Stanford, USC, Saint Mary’s College, Pepperdine, University of the Pacific, USD, and Boise State.
Though the spring is what really matters to Tu, as it is the actual season for USF and all of college tennis, Tu looks to advance in ranking against some of the best student-tennis players in the region at USF’s home court, the California Tennis Club, on the corner of Scott and Sutter between Oct. 12 – 16.
Along with the competition, Tu utilizes this event to keep in good match shape in a sport that is not only about conditioning, first steps, and short dead-out sprints, but also about the edge of knowing your opponent and anticipating his next move. “[It comes] natural,” Tu said. “[It’s a natural instinct] to know how the play will unfold.”
In tennis there are several different style-strategies that a player can utilize depending on their experience, preference, and natural abilities; there is an aggressive-style player, a counter-puncher, and a serve and volley-style player. According to Tu, aggressive players want to close in on an opponent by moving closer to the net to shorten the recovery time for the opponent on every return. Counter-punchers want to play defensively and use their opponents power and aggressiveness against them by directing the ball into difficult return areas finally. While volley players have nearly become extinct due to better strategies than to serve and immediately run up to the net to shorten the court.
Tu is an “all around player” he says. He plays both aggressive and as a counter-puncher, working the base line (or the back line of the court) and slowly trying to move in as an aggressor, or if his opponent is being more aggressive he will sit back and try to misdirect his opponent. “Tennis is all about match ups,” Tu explained. “You need to play off your opponent and try to get him out of his comfort zone.”
What makes tennis difficult to Tu is the fact that you are completely self-reliant on the court. The coaches do their best to give a player confidence and give some advice of what they think the athlete should do, but only the player really knows what their body and mind are capable of and how they can foresee their victory over their opponent. “All of the coaches understand when occasional things don’t work out and a player doesn’t agree with their way of thinking,” Tu said.
Tu’s strategy next weekend would be to maintain aggressiveness. But there is no one strategy that he believes he can stick to. He knows that most of the athletes will be great all around players like himself and that this could lead to many close matches that come down to one or two lucky bounces. “[If we are both playing off of each other to counter one another], it is going to come down to who will take the initiative to be aggressive,” Tu said. “Then we’ll see how the match turns out.”