October 4, 2010

Conditioning, Confidence Key for Men’s Tennis

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In an individual sport like tennis, it’s often easy to overlook the role a team mentality plays in determining success. The Cornell men’s tennis team, coming off a promising tournament at the University of Virginia in which players like Andy Gauthier defeated ranked players, is quickly taking on two team values that seem to be guiding the squad to success this year.

As the Red prepares for the Regional Championships at Yale (Oct. 14-18), one of the biggest events of the year involving all the Ivy League schools and some other tennis heavyweights in the Northeast, prominent aspects have emerged in the men’s tennis team that have been pinpointed by both players and head coach Tony Bresky as keys to success. Conditioning, though a key aspect of any tennis player’s training regimen, has been taken to a new level by this year’s team, a mentality that starts with Bresky’s focus on fitness and endurance in preparation for bigger tournaments like the upcoming one at Yale.

“Right now, for the next couple of weeks, we’re really going to bear down and just focus on conditioning. Regionals is a big tournament, a 128-person draw, so you have to win six matches to win the tournament,” Bresky said.

And although conditioning is extremely physically demanding and often the toughest part of a player’s training, it has been embraced by the whole squad as a team culture.

“We’ve done a good amount of conditioning since being back [from UVA], so we’ll definitely be the team in the best shape come this spring, so that’s one big thing,” said senior co-captain Jeremy Feldman. “No one ever wants to leave the courts.”

The team members, all with a common goal in mind, push each other to do better, fuelled by a hungry competitive nature.

“Everyone on the team is very competitive. We get along extremely well, but I don’t think anyone wants to lose to someone else,” Feldman added. “I hate losing, just in general, so I don’t want to lose to any of my teammates when we’re on the court doing conditioning. We definitely push each other.”

The other major mentality Bresky has been instilling in this year’s team and sees as essential to success is team confidence and expecting to win.

“I think always our expectation going into a tournament is to win. It’s hard to accomplish something you don’t expect to accomplish,” he said, though maintaining the importance of focusing on one game at a time.

Confidence is harder and slower to acquire for many, but the belief is slowly but surely spreading to the players.

“We’re a good team, but we’re not a great team unless we expect to be a great team,” Feldman said.

“I think having that confidence and knowing that each guy goes out there thinking that he’s going to win his match, before he even steps onto the court, that’s the attitude that [Coach Bresky’s] really trying to instil.”

But once these two values have been integrated, players start to see not only their essentiality but interrelatedness. Knowing that they are able to, if needed, go deep into a match and still feel fit is a major mental booster not only when the situation occurs but before the game even starts. While matches may not reach epic Isner-Mahut proportions, players on the team acknowledge they may see some five-set tiebreakers and feel confident about being able to not only last, but thrive in those conditions.

These approaches will continue to become more integral to the team as the season goes on, and as the men’s tennis team heads to Yale later this month for one of its biggest competitions, the Red will do so with high expectations, confident in its conditioning and conditioned to be confident.

Original Author: Minnia Feng