By SHANNON STONE
Simon Pritchard and team captain Jorge Wilton, who lead the Kennesaw State University men’s tennis team lineup at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, both traveled to America from Great Britain to attend KSU where they could play tennis for the Owls.
Now that the two are settled in the American culture and their roles on the tennis team, both have stepped up to lead.
Pritchard, 19, is a freshman who was born and raised in Wales, Great Britain, but attended boarding school in England at Millfield School. Here he was coached until reaching international rankings and competing alongside other internationally ranked players from places like Bermuda, Kenya, India and Germany, Pritchard said.
Wilton, 19, is a sophomore who was born and raised in England, where he attended Reed’s school when he competed in the International Tennis Federation, ranking at 400.
The two agree that coming to college in a foreign country was terrifying, but only at the beginning.
“It was very scary at first,” Wilton said. “It was daunting living many, many miles away from home. But once I came here I came to terms with it and it was just another life experience that was going to help me mature not only at tennis but as a human being as well.”
Pritchard, unlike Wilton, had only briefly visited America one time prior to the move from the United Kingdom to the United States.
Wilton had visited his older brother, Alex Wilton, who plays tennis in California, as well as visiting his family’s timeshare in Fort Meyers, Fla., numerous times.
After moving to America and learning the ways of the American culture, as well as the ways of NCAA tennis, the two were “eager to start the process of college tennis,” Wilton said.
For starters, their positioning in the lineup means that they are playing the toughest competitors but also that they are mentally challenged by the standards and expectations that are placed upon them.
Like most sports, the mental game in tennis is often times far more influential than physical ability.
Unlike their tennis playing experience in the U.K., the two had to learn how to play a dual match.
Back home, competing in tennis was an individual player against an individual player, seeking a personal win. In the NCAA and on teams in America, duel matches are played, which means that individual players are working together with their teammates to accumulate personal victories, which ultimately amount to a possible win as a team.
As a freshman leading the lineup, Pritchard knows pressure and the importance of overcoming it.
“Because I’m a freshman everything is new. The opponents I play, the places I go, it’s all new. Learning to completely overcome pressure and responsibilities, playing at no. 1 singles will come with time,” Pritchard said.
“Mainly I think it’s just mental,” Wilton said when being asked what he needs to work on most as an individual player. “My actual strokes and my tennis play on the racket is pretty good and it’s good enough to compete at the level it needs to compete at. I need to not get too down on myself if something goes wrong, and bounce back in these situations.”
The Owls lost after being challenged in a long, hard battle with Jacksonville State on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. For Wilton, however, the battle was an exceptional challenge.
After hours of splitting wins and losses between the two teams, it all came down to Wilton’s third set where he had the spectators’ absolute attention, as well as the sum of the pressure that had accumulated throughout the day. Wilton lost the match and as a result, the Owls lost 3-4.
The following day, the boys had to adjust their attitudes and pump up for a completely new competition against Alabama State. For Wilton, overcoming the disappointment and mental setback brought by the loss to Jacksonville State was even tougher, but accomplished.
The team ended their weekend with a 7-0 win, taking all possible points.
Thus far, Pritchard’s record is 5-2 and Wilton’s is 4-2, with one incomplete match that he was on the verge of winning.
The two British friends and teammates prove to be true leaders and victory-seekers.
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