OOn the surface, tennis can seem like a solitary sport. But for the All-Metro Tennis Players of the Year, the community found through their passion has been the greatest gift the sport has given them.
Deep Run senior Olivia Wright and St. Christopher junior Will Thompson won numerous individual accolades. But they cherished the relationships built through tennis above personal success.
“I just want to emphasize how important everyone around me has been throughout my tennis career at Deep Run,” said Wright, a three-time state doubles champion and 2021 Region 5B singles winner.
“Everyone on the team, in the tennis community, the coaches, really helped me and made my experience so much better. I’m grateful for these people.
Thompson, the No. 1 Prep League singles and doubles champion for the undefeated VISAA champion Saints, said the team environment at St. Christopher’s invigorated his game as a rookie.
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“I think the team aspect of tennis makes it so much more fun,” he said, adding that it felt like everyone knew each other in the tennis community.
“I love tennis, but sometimes traveling alone is sometimes hard to do. Being in a team environment helps me play so much better.
Wright and Thompson played on the same junior team in their early teens. The former is inspired by immigrant parents who came to the United States to pursue their athletic dreams, and the latter regularly confides in a parent with historical roots in the game.
Wright’s mother, Sofia, is a Swedish tennis player and her father, Mervyn, is a Trinidadian soccer player. Both attended VCU and competed there in their respective sports.
Wright played both sports in her youth, but became involved in tennis as soon as she entered high school. She described her game as aggressive, using her 6-foot-1 frame to come to the net and put pressure on her opponents. A big serve is also a key weapon for Wright, who most enjoys competing in doubles with his partner, rookie Rosalyn Kara.
The initial uncertainty surrounding the season left Wright grateful that she was able to compete in her senior year before heading to Providence College in Rhode Island. In particular, Wright reportedly missed one last race with trainer Maria Sorkin. The two share a close bond.
“When I got to high school, I formed a very strong relationship with her. She helped me in so many more ways than I can describe, not just on the tennis court but off the tennis court She’s been there for me for anything I need,” Wright said.
“I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if I didn’t have her as my coach. I’m really grateful that through Deep Run tennis I was able to build such a strong relationship with her.
Her private coach, Pat Anderson, was also a major influence on Wright’s game since she was quite young, she said. Although tournaments have been hard to come by during the pandemic, Wright has used the free time to train and hit more often than before.
“With all my tennis friends being in the same situation, we were basically living on the tennis courts,” she said. “That’s all we did.”
Wright’s heroes are her parents, whose pursuit of their sports in a new country she admires, and Serena Williams, whom Wright idolizes for her greater impact on women’s sports.
Preparing to go to college is bittersweet, Wright said.
“I’m really excited to go to college and have this new experience, but to be in this community and be with these people for such a long period of my time, it will definitely be sad once I leave them all. ” noted.
“But hopefully this next chapter in my life will bring more new people and new communities that I will be a part of for a while.”
Thompson has a close relationship with his great-uncle Bobby, a former University of Richmond player who coached at Notre Dame and the Navy.
“If I ever go through a period where I’m not playing my game or something, I always call it,” Thompson said. “He always has great advice and he’s really good at putting things into perspective for me.”
Those tips helped Thompson go on a remarkable streak — he hasn’t lost an official singles or doubles match since eighth grade. He thinks about it every time he plays, especially in big matches.
“It didn’t really enter my head. Of course, there are times when if I’m in a tight game, it might be in the back of my head. I just have to keep going, I have one season left to keep going,” he said enthusiastically.
“It motivates me a bit, but at the same time it’s like an extra pressure.”
Thompson played a lot of sports as a child and took up tennis when he was 10 years old. The sport opened doors for him, and as he began to find success in tournaments, he realized how much he loved it.
Thompson is still in the midst of college research. He competes at the Westwood Club in Richmond and credits much of his development to his coaches there.
Thompson’s favorite games of his high school career are the state tag team championships and key games. He looks forward to college tennis because the team camaraderie his Saints have captured brings out the greatest passion in him for the sport. His doubles partner, Talman Ramsey, has been a close friend since kindergarten.
“The games I remember the most are the ones where we all get really loud and excited,” he said.
“Being a team off the pitch helped us build team chemistry and we became a very close team. It helped us succeed.”