Olentangy High School junior Drew Oppenlander comes from a tennis family.
His father, Jim, played first singles for Ohio University and went on to play professionally. He now is No. 2 in the USTA men's 50-and-older Midwest amateur rankings.
His sister, Jaime, played first singles at Olentangy as a senior in 2004, and is playing tennis for the Grand Valley State.
But despite his pedigree, Drew hasn't always focused the majority of his free time on tennis. For several years, he spent just as much time competing in golf, hockey, karate and soccer as well as tennis, and he set down his tennis racquet in favor of a snowboard in the winter. He also has a 3.8 GPA.
"I played seven hours a day seven days a week to get to where I was, and not many people are willing to put that much time into tennis," Jim Oppenlander said. "There are more options for kids today, and Drew has a much more diverse background that I had. He's very well-rounded in that he's spent a lot more time on his schoolwork and other activities than most other good tennis players do."
But just like his father and sister, Drew seems to have caught the tennis bug finally.
During the fall and winter, he spent a lot of time working on improving his game with his father and several tennis instructors. Drew also began working with a personal trainer to improve his strength and conditioning.
The results of his improved work ethic are obvious. Through nine matches, he was 4-1 at second singles and 2-2 at first singles. As a freshman, Oppenlander went 3-12 playing first doubles with a variety of partners, and he finished 4-9 at first singles last year.
"In the winter, I spent a lot of time practicing my serve and trying to get more consistent with my game," Oppenlander said. "My serve is my biggest strength. I'm a lefty, so it's harder to return my serve because the spin goes the other way."
Oppenlander said his most satisfying victory was over Dublin Jerome's Ryuji Odajima 6-1, 6-3 at second singles April 10.
"(Odajima) is a pusher who hit the ball without much power and waited for me to make mistakes," Oppenlander said. "That was more of a mental match and than a physical match."
Coach Mark Latham said Oppenlander's powerful serve and smooth technique make him a threat to beat anybody.
"Drew is a very powerful player and his serve is a great weapon," Latham said. "When Drew loses, it's usually because his opponent figures out his game before he figures out their game. Once he learns to put together his strategy more quickly, he'll be very tough to beat."
Oppenlander is hoping that he'll prove to be a late bloomer, much like his sister, who played junior varsity tennis as a freshman and sophomore before moving to third singles as a junior and then earning a winning record at first singles as a senior.
After teaming with senior Sam Hale to qualify to the Division I district tournament in doubles last year, Drew is planning on competing in singles in the postseason this year.
"I want to make it to district at singles this year and make it to state at singles before I graduate," Oppenlander said. "I've improved a lot, and I'll do my best to keep getting better in the future. I've learned that you've got to work hard to get to the highest level, and that's what I'm trying to do. I haven't decided whether I'm going to try to play in college. It would be fun, but I'm more focused on getting a computer degree so I can get a good job and make lots of money."
At a glance
Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Liberty and Olentangy boys tennis teams:
April 9 -- Defeated Pickerington Central 4-1
*April 10 -- Lost to New Albany 5-0
April 16 -- Def. Grove City 5-0
*April 17 -- Def. Watkins Memorial 5-0
April 18 -- Def. St. Charles 4-1
April 21 -- Def. Thomas Worthington 4-1
April 22 -- Def. Dublin Jerome 4-1
April 23 -- Lost to Hilliard Davidson 4-1
Last Monday -- Def. Olentangy 5-0
Last Tuesday -- Played Dublin Coffman
Last Wednesday -- Played Gahanna
*Today -- At Dublin Scioto. Liberty won 5-0 last year.
Friday -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne in OTCA Division I match. Liberty lost 4-1 last year.
*Tuesday -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. Liberty won 5-0 last year.
Of note: The Patriots were 7-2 overall before last Tuesday and are 1-1 in the OCC-Capital.
April 7 -- Lost to Thomas 4-1
April 9 -- Def. Big Walnut 3-2
*April 10 -- Lost to Jerome 3-2
April 15 -- Def. Dublin Scioto 4-1
April 16 -- Def. Marion Harding 4-1
*April 17 -- Def. Westerville South 5-0
April 21 -- Lost to Coffman 5-0
April 23 -- Def. Westerville Central 5-0
*April 24 -- Lost to Pickerington Central 4-1
Last Monday -- Lost to Liberty 5-0
Last Wednesday -- Played Pickerington North
*Today -- At Mount Vernon. Olentangy won 5-0 last year.
*Tuesday -- Home vs. Kilbourne. Olentangy lost 5-0 last year.
Of note: The Braves were 5-5 overall before last Wednesday and are 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal.