Winston Lin, an 18-year-old freshman at Columbia University, is an easy choice as Western New York's No.-1 ranked tennis player for 2011.
The Williamsville East High graduate joins the ranks of other former 18-year-old local players who went on to star in college such as Clay Hamlin and Seth Bowen, both of Nichols School, at Penn and Arizona respectively.
Others are: Dirk Dugan, former Hamburg High great, who played first singles for Cornell, and was recognized as the best player in the Ivy League; Neil Simon, an Amherst High stalwart, who went on to play first singles at Tulane; and Ross Nwachukwu, who played for Bennett, and is indisputably, the greatest tennis player to have ever graduated from a Buffalo public high school, and went on to star at Drake.
To be mentioned with these noteworthy tennis stars is impressive. However, Lin has resume to back it up. In February, he won a USTA sectional championship in Glen Cove on Long Island. In March, he finished fifth in an Albany National Open tournament. In April, he won another sectional championship in Oceanside.
In addition, he won all three tournaments that he played in at the Miller Tennis Center and in each defeated last year's No. 1 player, Vusa Hove, a UB star and winner of the last two Muny singles championships. He also won a highly prestigious tournament in York, Ont., last summer, where he defeated Walter Garcia, a former Niagara University star. In the finals Lin defeated former York University star Mikhail Lew, who is nationally ranked in Canada, in another three-set final.
The icing on the cake was his being ranked as the number one 18-and-under player in the East and as high as 22nd in the country in the same division.
What's the secret to Lin's success? To begin with, his 5-foot-10, 140-pound body belies the powerful strokes that he has on all of his shots. His concentration is nonpareil and his success in three-set matches is outstanding.
"If I am tied at a set apiece I really don't change anything," Lin said. "I continue to play the same way as I have played earlier. Fortunately, I have had great success in three sets by playing in this manner."
What makes Lin so tough mentally is that whether he is winning or losing his composure and temperament always stays at an even keel. This can be very disconcerting to an opponent, especially one who has a volatile temperament. However, his outstanding demeanor, has helped him in many close matches, by keeping his cool, and continuing to do what he does best.
With all of his success one would think that he must have been taking lessons from one of the many outstanding tennis pros in the area. Nothing could be further from the truth. His coach is his father Li, a good 4.0 player. Li has done a phenomenal job in teaching his son.
"Winston had tried many sports as a youngster," Li said. "However, tennis was the sport that he enjoyed playing the most. Even as a youngster he had great concentration, could keep the ball in play, and hit technically correct strokes. As for his foot work I have to give credit to my wife, Karen, who is an excellent table tennis player, for helping Winston with his speed afoot by playing table tennis with him. We also have to give credit to Todd and Debbie Miller, the owners of Miller Tennis Center, for their support and contributions for whatever success he has had."
Lin gives a great amount of credit to his dad.
"My father is a great coach," he said. He always stays calm and makes the teaching fun. Win or lose, my dad never puts pressure on me."
Winston also gives a lot of credit of to his coach at Columbia, Bid Goswarmi, a former Davis cup player for India, "Coach Goswarmi has helped me to hit my serve with more power and spin, and really helped me become a more consistent player," he said.
"Being at Columbia has skyrocketed Winston's game," Todd Miller said. "Having the elite competition to compete against day after day has lifted his game to another level. His dad, Li, must also be given a lot of credit for Winston's success. He has done a phenomenal job with Winston and Winston is one of the nicest kids you will ever meet. Winston's younger brother Connor is also being coached by Li and he is already one of the top 15 youngsters in the East in the 12-under division."