Andrew Minter’s first season of tennis as a Northwest freshman began like most novices — he focused primarily on hitting the ball as hard as possible.
He didn’t know there’s more to the game. He hadn’t watched tennis on TV and was only out there because his mom insisted he find a sport.
Two weeks in, he was hooked.
“I played a few matches and decided I liked it,” Minter said. “… I had tried so many sports — baseball, soccer, basketball, cross country. I just kind of found a natural talent and I really did enjoy it.”
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Minter, who has signed to play at Ottawa University, is Northwest’s No. 1 singles player and will compete in the City League tournament Saturday at Riverside Tennis Center. He is 5-2 heading into Thursday’s match against Bishop Carroll.
Minter has advanced past the stage where he only plays with power.
“The way I play now, I pick and choose when I’m really going to hammer the ball at my opponent,” Minter said. “Now I can do it more consistently and place it now.”
Minter made a steady progression from his first season, when he was the No. 6 player on the junior varsity. As a sophomore, he was the No. 5 player on varsity. As a junior he moved up to his current spot at No. 1 singles.
“It feels like I had to play catchup for the first couple years because there were guys who had a passion for it, too, but they had been playing since they were 5, 6, 7 years old,” Minter said. “There’s still some like (Heights’) Kerry Dunn and (Bishop Carroll’s) Rodney Steven who are still ahead of me.”
Minter started taking lessons following his freshman season and immersed himself in tennis.
“He lives and breathes tennis now,” Northwest coach Mike Thomas said. “During the day, he gets out of school at 12, 12:30 and if there’s any professional tournaments on, he’s texting me all day about how certain players are doing. That’s all he thinks about is tennis. I’m glad he’s able to play tennis in college.”
Minter’s favorite players are Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov, but he doesn’t care who is playing. He livestreams matches, and the Tennis Channel is usually on at home.
If he’s not watching tennis, he’s playing. He calls Thomas to hit with him before practice or he finds someone else to go to the courts.
In the offseason he leads conditioning, begging for tougher workouts and challenging his teammates.
“His game has improved so much,” Thomas said. “All he worked on in the summer was his backhand slice, which is something he never really had. He is using it effectively in matches. He hits his slice backhand and then comes to the net. He’s worked on his volleys and improved.”
Minter’s serve has become a stronger part of his game, too. Initially he would hit his first serve with as much power as possible and then if he missed, tap over the second serve.
“His serve used to be one of his weakest points,” Thomas said. “… He’s so much more consistent. He’s one of those kids that you can tell him what to do and he’ll go out and practice until he gets it down.”