Interview with St. John's Tennis State Champion, Chris Ellis
|St. John’s senior Chris Ellis of Shrewsbury and long-time participant of SHARC’s Youth Tennis Program since the age of 10 spent a few minutes with Tennis Director Dave N. to reflect back on his junior tennis experience. As you may have heard, Chris captured the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association High School singles title last spring and he is closing in on capturing the #1 ranking in the Boys USTA New England singles and doubles.
Dave: When did you start to play tennis?
Chris: Unlike most top juniors and professional players, I started relatively late at the age of 10. I was very active in many different kinds of sports, such as basketball, baseball, football and soccer. One weekend, I had no games scheduled. My father was hitting some tennis balls at Dean Park. He showed me how to grip the racket and we tapped the ball back and forth for a few minutes. We played a set and I lost 6-0. It was my first individual sport and I had nobody else to blame. I was determined to get better. I got my revenge at age 11. My dad has not asked me to play a match since.
Dave: Can you describe your experience at SHARC? What influence, if any, did it have on your development?
Chris: I love practicing at SHARC for several reasons. The game has many dimensions. First, there is the technical. The pros at SHARC have all been accomplished tennis players. They are all USPTA or USPTR certified and have the ability to teach good technique. Second, it has become a physical game. I have been taking advantage of the variety of free fitness classes and Ray, the fitness director and my personal trainer, taught me short but intense tennis specific exercises that come in handy playing two long matches a day during the dog days of summer. Third, there is the mental part and I have often had long conversations with you and the other pros about strategy, tactics and mental toughness which get me through close matches. Finally, St. John's and Shrewsbury High School have dominated Central Massachusetts for quite Some Time. Although we are rivals, we have fun and push each other in the clinics so we can be the best we can be.
Dave: What does it take to be an accomplished tennis player?
Chris: Heart, determination and passion. Without that, you can only go so far. That said, I take one private lesson a week to work on my technique, participate in the tournament training program (top adults, college players and juniors only) Monday and Wednesday from 3:00-4:30 PM and then match play on the weekends. Such a variety keeps me engaged and I never get bored.
I also take advantage of the open courts (and cheaper I may add) at 6:30 AM before school where I get to practice my serve and I love using the ball machine which is free of charge. Although I have never seen any fellow juniors practice at that time, I would rather we keep that a secret.
Dave: What are your goals this year?
Chris: St. John's has reached the state finals the last three years. I do not want us to be compared with the Buffalo Bills. We are now mostly seniors and we are determined to capture the gold this year. It's funny, Shrewsbury High School, will be one of our top challengers.
Dave: have you decided on college?
Chris: I was offered several college scholarships from Division I schools. However, I chose one of the top liberal arts schools in the country, Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Tennis certainly was a factor that got me through admissions at a school that only has a 25% acceptance rate. I also received a liberal financial package which I am sure my family appreciates. Bates has a top coach, ranked in the top 15 in the nation at the Division III level and nationally ranked even higher academically. I am so thankful for those who contributed to my success including the family I have at the Shrewsbury Health and Racquet Club.
Congratulations Chris on your success thus far and we wish you even more throughout your career at Bates!