April 27, 2006

10 Questions With Men's Tennis' Junior Josh Raff

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After rallying shot-for-shot with junior Josh Raff of the men’s tennis team for 10 minutes, Paul Testa decided it might be a good idea to actually turn on his tape recorder.

1. Is it recording?

Yeah I hope so.

We had some good stuff there.

A rookie mistake. Do you have any shred of respect left for me after my failing to press the record button?

A little bit less.

Fair enough. So we were talking about your accomplishments as a tennis player on the junior tennis circuit, and you were describing what it’s like to play at Kalamazoo, Mich., the site of the USTA Junior nationals.

Yes, OK, so I guess if were to describe Kalamazoo, the best way to put it would be that for a junior tennis player it’s as close to feeling like what it is to be a professional tennis player.

Are there press conferences after the match, fireside chats with Cliff Drysdale?

They do a few, especially, if someone has a big upset victory. It’s held a Kalamazoo College, and there are nine total courts, but three are surrounded by a stadium [that] fits like a couple thousand people. Here, we’re playing in front of 50 max, on a good day, on a hell of a day. There, depending on how you’re playing that day, you could be fortunate or unfortunate enough to be playing in front of a couple thousand people, which is pretty cool especially for like a 17-or-18-year-old,

Did you find that the crowds pumped you up, or did you get nervous and tight?

Well, I never quite did well enough to be put in that position where I was playing in front of that many people, but it totally depends. If you’re playing really well in front of that many people, you just thrive off the energy, but if you’re playing badly, it’s the last place you want to be.

2. So you’re from Haverford, Pa., right outside Philly and straight off the Main Line. What’s the best place in Ithaca to get a Philly cheese steak?

That is – let me just go off the record, or even on the record if you want – that is a good question.

Thank you.

The respect I have for you just attained the status quo. You’re back to status quo.

Frankly, that’s the best I can hope for.

Well, OK, I have to preempt this question with saying, since I’m from Philly, I don’t really get Philly cheese steaks that often outside of Philly. You know, because I have my places that I go.

Let me guess, Pat’s King of Steaks.

I mean Pat’s is definitely up there. It’s hard to say what my favorite is in Philly, but Pat’s is the place I take people that have never had one before.

Right. It’s the classic.

I got free Pat’s once that’s a good story.

I saw you wearing the tee-shirt on your profile on juniortennis.com. You had the cutest chubby cheeks back in the day.

That match that I was playing when I was wearing the Pat’s tee-shirt was at the tournament in Palm Springs, where I was playing this guy named Robert Yim who ended up playing that year Todd Martin at the U.S. Open.


I lost to him in three sets, but I played well, and then I brought that picture down to Pat’s and they hooked me up with free steaks.

Isn’t that kind of illegal? They might take away your Heisman Trophy.

I mean they weren’t paying me. I was just repping Pat’s, showing my Philly love.

Are you a wit onions kind of guy or wit-out onions?

My order, is “extra-wit” which means extra Cheez Whiz with onions.

Cheez Whiz? Really?

That’s how Pat’s and Gino’s does it. If you go to Pat’s and you’re not getting the Cheez Whiz, you’re not getting the full experience. But back to your question.


I gotta say that I haven’t had enough Philly cheese steaks to say what place has the best one in Ithaca, but I will say that Louie’s Lunch makes a respectable Philly cheese steak.

That’s high praise.

I love Louie’s. It doesn’t compare to the one’s at home but it’s a respectable Philly cheese steak.

3. You played No. 2 singles this season and have held down the No. 1 doubles spot here since your freshman year. Which do you prefer, singles or doubles?

Ehh… it depends. This season doubles, because I did a lot better in doubles than in singles, but I like them both, I can’t distinguish between the two. I like them both for what each is worth.

So it’s not like you’re a one-man kind of guy?


You’re not down with the whole monogamy thing?

No. I’m a tennis polygamist.

I’m gonna get some phone calls from Athletic Communications.

4. You and your doubles partner, junior Nicholas Brunner, had one of the most successful seasons in the programs history (23-5, 6-1 Ivy). You guys obviously have some chemistry, what’s the secret to your’ success?

I think it just might be that. You know, I’ve had a decent amount of doubles partners over the years, and I’ve been good with all of them. I’ve always had good doubles partners, but Brunner and I, we do have a good chemistry that you can’t necessarily teach you know. It’s more like the way we each separately play molds together into a good doubles team.

You speak each other’s unspoken language of the heart.

Something like that.

What style of players are you?

We both fall somewhere between the category of I guess attacking / aggressive baseliners / serve-and-volleyers. We both like to come into the net, we both like to hit hard from the baseline, wait for the short ball and then come into the net. We serve and volley not all the time, but enough that one might call us serve-and-volleyers

5. Have you ever hit an opponent with a ball so hard that you made them cry?

Yes, actually, this was a long time ago. It hasn’t happened at the collegiate level, unfortunately, though we’ve gotten into some heated matches, though, where I’ll be going for an opponent and he’ll be going for me.

You actually intentionally try and hit guys?

I did against Virginia Commonwealth. We played them this year, and they thought that I made a bad call and the point after that one of the opponent’s blatantly cheated us. I hit a ball that actually hit him, but it was like soft and it bounced off his stomach and over the net and he pretended like he made the shot. Next thing you know his opponent starts aiming for me so I started going for him a little bit. I almost took his head off, with a high forehand volley, but the ball went out.

6. In most levels of tennis below the pros, guys are calling their own shots and you’re going to get bad calls like you did in that match against VCU. How often do you find guys blatantly cheating on line calls at the college level?

It happens. It’s around. It’s unfortunate. But from my experience, the majority of the guys I play and I’d say the majority of the Ivy League, with exceptions, are relatively fair for the most part.

Care to name any of the exceptions?

I’d have to think about, but there are definitely guys where if the match is coming down to it. and you hit a ball that’s very close, it might go their way, they might call that ball out.

When a guy is making horrendous calls against you, is it OK for you to maybe shorten the court a little bit in retaliation? Have you ever cheated?

That’s for me to know, you’re on a need to know basis.

Are you’ kidding me. We can end this right here.

No I mean it depends on you’re outlook. If you know – I don’t want to say anything documented here that gets me in trouble for condoning cheating, because I don’t condone cheating.

Stay in school kids. Don’t do drugs.

I’ll give you an example. I was playing this kid from South Eastern Louisiana University.

A bunch of dirty cheaters there.

Well it turned out to be. So I’m playing this kid, I’m kind of pulling away with match. It was a pretty tight first set, I’m up, 4-2, in the second and it’s a pretty big point. It was like 15-30 on my serve. I get this point I’m still in the game. He gets it and then the game, he’s right back in the match. I hit a shot, 100, 100 percent in, he calls it out. Blatantly cheating me to get the advantage. Now I’m not going to stand for this, he’s not going to take that point from me. So I did something a little underhanded, but I’m kind of proud of it to this day. I changed the score on him. It should’ve been 30-all, the ball was in, he wasn’t getting it back, it should have been 30-all. OK? But he starts claiming that it’s 15-40 my ball was out, so I said ‘No it’s 40-15,’ and I was really fired up and the ref comes over, and I’m like going crazy I’m screaming at the kid and he’s screaming at me, and I’m the server and you know the ref always asks the server what the score is and I said 40-15 and he agrees. The kid gets so razzled and caught up he starts charging the net and he said some profane words directed toward me and the ref defaulted him on the spot.

That’s unbelievable! You won the match?


I think John McEnroe is shedding a tear of pride right now.

7. What’s better your forehand or your backhand?

Um, this is only in The Sun? This isn’t going in any other article?

I’m just asking

OK. Forehand.

Can you decribe your stroke for me?

You know what, someone in The Sun, did a tennis article and my picture’s in the paper and it describes me hitting a western forehand, but that’s not actually true.

Really? Haha, I did that caption.

That was you?

Yeah, and you know what your wrist, your grip it looks like a western forehand to me.

It’s close. It’s not a full western though.

You’re honestly gonna call me out and try and say it was a semi-western as opposed to a western.

That’s a totally different – Semi-western and western are totally different grips.

You’re kidding me. You hold it like this, your wrist is like this, you’re –

It’s different.

How long you’ve been a sports editor?

Yeah well… nevermind. You can call it a western if you like.

I’m an editor, I’ll say you hit a freakin’ High Noon forehand if I want. You know what, no more pictures for you.

Just try and be factual is all I ask. Whatever, it’s not a big deal.

I didn’t realize you guys actually read the paper.

I do when my picture’s in the paper.

8. I’ve heard a dirty little rumor about you, that you’re the cheerleader on the team and you lead the team cheer before the match. What do you think you’re doing, playing high school softball?

You want me to answer this question candidly and you’re trying to make fun of it before it even begins. Have you heard the cheer first of all?

OK Josh, prove me wrong. Let me hear the cheer right now.


What do you mean No?

I’m not doing the cheer.

What!? Do want me to apologze to you? Do you want me to light some scented candles and put on a little Sade? Do you want me to beg?

It’s not that. The cheer requires the whole team. The cheer is a team effort.

You know what? I think you’re scared. I think the spotlight’s on you’re choking.

I’m not doing the cheer.

Come on, it would be cheertastic.

I can talk about the cheer, maybe we can have a nice little chat about it, but I’m not going to do the cheer.

Fine let’s talk about the cheer. How did this come about?

I actually don’t know how exactly the cheer came about, but the cheer is based around, if you’ve seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turttles II: Secret of the Ooze, you’ll know that there’s a seen near the end where Vanilla Ice is singing: “Go ninja, Go ninja Go. So someone, it wasn’t me, turned this into “Go Big Red, Go Big Red Go.” So we figured if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it big.

Josh, I was just Raff-ing you before, I think it’s cool that you do a cheer. I hear that you’re a pretty ill rapper, D.J. Dreidel, Raffropuffs. Anyting that you’d like to lay down, Dr. Dre reads this paper every day, “10 Questions” is like his favorite column next to “In My Kate Spade Shoes.” Can we get a little sample.?

I’m not going to rap.

Josh the rapping, not the tennis, is the reason we’re doing this.

I’ll do a plug for Raffropuffs. I’m not going to rap. You’ve got to get me at the right time. I’ll do a few plugs for myself, and the cheer. Back to the cheer, it’s the “Go Big Red Go Big Red” part, that’s the chorus, and everyone gathers around Brunner and I, and Brunner does the beatbox and I have like a three-line verse that talks about the team and you know winning and stuff like that.

Slice Slice Baby.

It’s relatively witty, I’ll admit, and it gets the team fired up, so if you want to hear me rap come to the next home match.


9. Which member of the women’s tennis team here at Cornell would you most like to play mixed doubles with, on the court that is?

Um, why did you ask me this question?

I mean, hey you’re a pretty good doubles player. I figured you’d probably thought about this.

I don’t know how to answer this question.

Let me reveal a little bit of my agenda with this question, and ask a related one, which is, do gentleman really prefer blondes?

Do gentlemen really prefer blondes? OK, that kind of came out of left field.

I’m going places, trust me.

I like blondes just as much as the next guy – arguably more than the next guy.

All right, because I work at the front desk of Reis Tennis Center, and I hear things, and apparently you have at least one, fair-haired secret, or maybe not so secret admirer, on the women’s tennis team.

Um yeah, that might be true.

You and this certain tennis player would make a really cute doubles team. I mean she sings all the freakin time, and you rap, apparently. You two could be like the Jay-Z and the Beyonce of the country club.

I’d have to play with all of the women first to see if we had good chemistry.

How do you balance the demands of being a college tennis player with the requirements of being a sex symbol?

It’s hard. It really is. You kind of have to have your private time.

Do you feel like just a piece of tennis playing meat sometimes? Do people realize there’s a person behind that flawless semi-western forehand?

Sometimes I go unappreciated, but I don’t mind the abuse Paul.

10. What’s the hottest women’s team at the Cornell?

You did prepare me about this one, so I’ve been thinking about it a little bit.

Good. Sorry, wait, you have a girlfriend I heard.


Does she play a sport?


All right, let’s roll. Did you run things by her before hand. Did she give you a list of things you can and cannot say?

No but I do have to watch my back a little bit.

She’s not here, she won’t see this.

Yeah who’s going to see this.

Dr. Dre.

OK. Hottest women’s team, to be honest Paul, I feel like this questions almost unfair, because a teams a lot of girls, so it’s tough.

That’s sweet Josh, that’s really sensitive. I feel like you’re the first guy who really listens.

I do listen. I’m a good listener. So first off, most of these that I’ve read, these segements, most of the guys say women’s track. There must be a reason for it, but you know what, I don’t know anyone on the track team, so they’re out. I’m going to go with women’s tennis.

I think that’s a first.

I’m going to be a little biased. You know I come into practice, it’s late I’m tired, maybe I had a prelim maybe I didn’t, maybe I have one the next day and you know the women are out their in their little tennis skirts and it’s a sight for sore eyes.

You’ve probably shot up the polls in the women’s tennis teams rankings of hottest tennis players. That certain someone is probably screeching and giggling right now as she reads this, because you she thinks you’re talking about her. Are you talking about her?

I’m talking about the women’s team in general. I’m a team-oriented guy. I’m a tennis player and I have a natural appeal to tennis players. It’s the team I know best. Hottest on campus.

10 Questions with Paul Testa will appear weekly next year, unless Per Ostman fails to graduate – 10 Questions with Per Ostman will appear weekly next year.

Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Assistant Sports Editor