Interview with Alex Zhang (Grade 8)

When did you first play tennis and what has inspired you to remain committed to this sport?

I started playing when I was 6 for fun, and then at 7, I wanted to play competitively. I love the sound of the ball striking the ground, there are few injuries and players respect each other. I also love the competition and the pressure I feel before each match.

Can you describe your tennis schedule?

I play each day between two to three hours after school and four hours on the weekend. I play six days a week.

As you know Ashbury has a rigorous school program. You are rarely absent, meet all deadlines and complete your homework without reminders from your teachers. How do you balance the demands of your tennis schedule with your academics?

I sacrifice a lot of free time. I don’t relax a lot. I still play piano three hours a week, which gives me a break from tennis. I do most of my homework on the weekend, which helps me keep organized for the week.

Do you have any tennis role models? Who and why?

Oh yes! My favourite player is Novak Djokovic. I like what he stands for; he leads a green lifestyle, and he helps children in Serbia. I also like how he plays; he is an all-court player, very good at everything. He plays offensive and defensive at the same time and he is always very calm. He is also number 1 in the world!

What have you learned about yourself since playing tennis competitively?

I really like to improve and challenge myself. I have learned to accept constructive criticism better. In the past, I used to see criticism as negative. But now, I know I need feedback to get better and grow.

How has the pandemic changed your tennis routines? What would you like to keep in place during post-pandemic times?

The pandemic has changed my routines in a positive way. I have been able to find a private coach and train for more hours. As a result, I have improved more this year than in previous years. A lot of tournaments have been cancelled; this has allowed me to train even more on the courts as well as to have more time to complete my schoolwork. In post-pandemic times, I would like to continue with these additional private lessons.

Do you have tips for other students who are considering or currently participating in competitive sports or arts?

Hard work always pays off. That is my most important tip.

Congratulations on qualifying for this year’s U14 tennis provincial championship! Which traits do you feel players need to have to achieve this level of success?

You need to be calm, focussed and intense. Professional tennis players are calm on the outside but fiery on the inside. I listen to HeadSpace, a meditation app, where they talk about soft focus. If someone, for example, has a speech, they practice many times and then the speech comes naturally to them-this is soft focus. It is flow, a type of rhythm, which tennis players need in order to be successful.

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