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Sports Then and Now



The Tennis Career of Tennessean Chris Woodruff 1

Posted on August 05, 2010 by Rob York

Chris Woodruff reached the semifinals of the 2000 Australian Open.

While playing for the tennis team of my high school in small town West Tennessee, I was occasionally asked about my chances of going pro one day.

I always found this amusing; sure I was usually winning my matches, and sure, I eventually became, in my senior year, the No. 1 seed on our team. And of course, I was a teenager wholly ignorant of the workings of the world outside of the space I’d known in agrarian West Tennessee.

But even I found the idea of my going pro ridiculous. I mean, I wasn’t even the best player in my own family. My brother-in-law Jay had played for a prep school in one of the bigger cities of our state, where tennis is actually regarded as more than an afterthought enjoyed by less popular students not big enough to play football or athletic enough to dunk a basketball.

I had never beaten Jay, and even he had never contemplated going pro. He had a better idea of what that level entailed, however, having run into Chris Woodruff when both were in their pre-teens.

“I couldn’t get back the balls he was hitting,” is how Jay has described their encounter.

Moving Up

Then again, the balls that Chris Woodruff hit weren’t easily retrieved by anyone. Less than a decade after their encounter he was enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and was an All-American in his freshman year of 1992. As a sophomore he leapt from one of the best collegiate players in the country to the best of all, taking the NCAA singles title in 1993, and subsequently taking his skills pro.

But by the middle of 1997, traveling the world as a tennis pro had brought precious little glamour to the life of this Tennessean. In his first three seasons he didn’t even win most of the matches he played at the tour level. In 1996 he had reached his first finals in Philadelphia and Coral Springs. Read the rest of this entry →

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