1-on-1 with Sam Todd '15
This week, I sat down with men's tennis player Sam Todd '15 to discuss the team's stellar season last year and the outlook for the upcoming year.
You grew up playing outdoors in sunny Southern California. How does playing indoors in the Northeast differ from playing outdoors?
ST: Playing indoors is definitely different for us California guys. I had only played indoors once or twice before coming to Dartmouth because there are no indoor courts near where I live since the weather keeps the courts dry. That being said, indoor tennis is much nicer in that there is no wind and no sun, which makes for cleaner tennis. Indoor tennis is also a lot quicker than outdoor tennis. It makes tennis a lot more fun for people like me who just hit really hard and don't move.
The team had the most wins in a season in the program's history last year. What do you think led to that success?
ST: I think the biggest thing that led to our success last year was the leadership by our seniors Michael Laser ['12] and Chris Ho ['12]. Those guys did a great job as captains both on and off the court. They both pushed us day to day in practice and always brought it on match day. They also really helped us stay strong as a team. Another big key to our success last year was our conditioning and fitness. Coach [Chris] Drake works us very hard, and it definitely pays off. Sometimes the conditioning is rough, but we know that it will help in the long run. Hopefully we can build off what we accomplished last year and have another solid year. We have a good group of four '16s as well as eight returning players looking to step up and pick up where Laser and Ho left off.
The team competed this weekend in NYC at Flushing Meadows, the site of the U.S. Open. How was the experience of playing on such a big stage for your first tournament of the year?
ST: It's a really cool experience for all of us getting to play on the same courts they play on at the U.S. Open. The site brings out some of the toughest teams and always proves to be a good tournament for us to get going with the fall season. The tournament itself is a bit of a grind because it brings long days, and it tends to be very unorganized for some reason. One day, we hope they will let us play on Arthur Ashe Stadium, but I seriously doubt that will ever happen.
Former college tennis players like John Isner have had success on the pro tour. How do you think college tennis contributes to the development of these players' games?
ST: College tennis is great in many ways. It's really the only outlet for a tennis player to play on a team, which already is so different from professional and junior tennis. Playing on a team helps motivate and focus you to develop your game because you're accountable to not only yourself but everyone else on the team. The level of college tennis has gotten increasingly better over the past five years or so, especially in the Ivy League, and more players are seeing college tennis as a route to the pros.
You had the opportunity to play in tournaments in Europe this summer. How was that experience, and how did it affect your game?
ST: I went to France for six weeks over the summer and lived at a tennis academy with two South Americans and a Norwegian. Traveling and competing in the French tennis circuit was an incredible experience and helped my tennis game as well. It's much different from the U.S. in many ways, especially in that the matches are on red clay instead of hard courts. Their tournament structure is also so different from here, and it allows for players to play tournament matches essentially every day. It made me a better competitor during matches and helped with my fitness. The clay makes you be a much more patient tennis player, which is something I definitely could use.
The team played a couple of matches at the Topliff Courts last year that got quite rowdy. How much can the crowd make a difference in those matches?
ST: The crowds were awesome last year. Besides the fact it clearly rattles the other team, having the crowd really helps us to keep going and keep fighting. It's a lot easier to compete at your best when you have a crowd to back you. We had a sick crowd at the Princeton match last year and it helped us score a big Ivy League win. We have a tournament in two weeks at home and we would love to have as many people out as possible to support us.