About six months ago Winston Lin was unanimously recognized by this columnist and a few local experts as the area's No. 1 male tennis player. This was due to his undefeated record against local players, including three wins over second-ranked and highly talented Vusa Hove, one of the stars of the University at Buffalo tennis team and the only local player who was a real threat to Lin. In addition, Lin was the No. 1-ranked junior in the East in the 18-and-under division and was ranked as high as No. 22 nationally. Many followers of the game, including myself, felt that as good as Lin was, he would only get better.
Lin's outstanding play was noticed by some of the top universities in the East. After much soul searching, Lin, who was also a top honors student, had to decide between Harvard and Columbia. It was an extremely tough choice. He finally decided on Columbia. The question that was naturally asked, was, "How would he compete in the extremely tough Ivy League?" The answer is a resounding "Unbelievably!"
Alternating at first and second singles, Lin compiled an incredible 21-1 record (7-1 at first singles and 12-0 at second singles) for a Columbia team that was contending for the Ivy League crown until the team was hit by a season ending injury to one of its best players. He was rewarded for his outstanding play by being named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Year and was All-Ivy League first team, an almost unprecedented accomplishment for a freshman.
Having seen virtually every homegrown tennis talent over a 40-year period, (excluding former No. 5 in the world Jimmy Arias and 200th-ranked Bobby Banck) I truly feel that Lin is well on his way to approaching the accomplishments of other home grown players such as Neil Simon (Tulane), Ross Nwachukwu (Drake), Clay Hamlin (Penn), Seth Bowen (Arizona State), David Loder (Clemson) and Jay Udwadia (Arkansas).
The most amazing part of Lin's success can be greatly attributed to his father, Li. A few years ago, Li, who had never played tennis, took a few lessons from John Brunner, now the tennis director of the Village Glen. After that, he started practicing on his own, watched a great many professional matches and read many tennis books. He started teaching Winston when he was about 6 years old and has been his only local coach. Surprisingly, each workout lasts only an hour.
"I always believed that we should get the most out of each lesson as possible," Li said. "We would work out at Miller Tennis Center on every aspect of Winston's game, doing forehands, backhands, serves, return of serves, volleys, and overheads."
Li felt that Winston had great potential and started entering him in 10-and-under tournaments. In each division he achieved great success. Beside having a great all-court game his ability to play under pressure and have a calm court demeanor are attributes that have given him great success. When most players are involved in a close match they will often get nervous and try to keep the ball in play until their opponent misses. Not Winston! He will try the same shots at 5-5 in the third set as he would at 1-0 love in the first set. That is what sets him apart from other local players.
Bid Goswami has been the Harvard coach for over 25 years. He was on India's Davis Cup team and played professionally for a few years. He loves the way that Winston is fearless on the court and has turned out to be everything that he has hoped for. Goswami's observations are taken with great respect as he has led Columbia to 10 Ivy league crowns, including titles in 2009 and 2010.
Li said, "The outstanding competition in the Ivy League and coach Goswami has greatly helped Winston's game. Winston is serving better, moving better, and has gained 15 pounds. The pace on his shots and his conditioning is much improved."
Don't think for a moment that his tennis has affected Winston's studies. Focusing on economics and math, Winston had a 3.6 grade-point average. As for turning pro, it is evident that Winston would like to give it a try. However, Winston admits that it is a long-term thing. However, coach Goswami is adamant when he stresses that he definitely thinks that Winston has what it takes to compete on the professional tour.
Futures tourney set
Professional women's tennis will return to Buffalo June 24-July 1. The Sargent & Collins LLP Women's $10,000 Championships, which is a USTA Pro Circuit event, will be played at the Miller Tennis Center. Many of the top female tennis players from throughout the world will be competing in both singles and doubles. Everyone is invited to watch up and coming tennis stars from the United States, Brazil, Russia, Japan, China and many other countries. There is an impressive list of former greats who have played in Future's tournaments. They include: Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Anna Kournikova, Amelie Mauresmo, Chandra Rubin and Lori McNeil, among others.
Daily admission is free. Match times and playing schedules will be postd on millertenniscenter.com. Call 632-8600 for more information.