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Challenges Ahead for Freshman Vols



Jan. 12, 2012



BY MATT MAGILL
UTSPORTS.COM

State Title x4

While many top players forgo high school tennis, Brandon Fickey embraced the experience.

Fickey earned statewide acclaim while at Webb School of Knoxville as a senior in 2011 when he became the first player in history to win win four consecutive Tennessee state high school singles titles. He also led his team to back-to-back team championships as a junior and senior.

The story doesn't end there. Fickey broke his right hand midway through his senior season. After a few days of sitting on the bench, he convinced his coach to let him play left handed.

And why not? Fickey does basically everything left handed already, except for tennis. He went 5-2 in the lineup for Webb as a lefty.

This is the third of a 10-part series looking at each member of the Vols' 2012 roster leading up to the start of the season Jan. 20 with a home double header against Memphis and Eastern Kentucky beginning at 1 p.m. All 10 feature stories will be part of the 2012 media guide.

Brandon Fickey likes a good challenge. Just look at his major: biology.

The freshman doesn't shy away from one of UT's most difficult majors, even with his first season of tennis looming.

"There's time for everything," Fickey said. "You just have to manage your time. There's time to play, time to travel. You need to find an hour here or there to do some studying and reading. I stayed up late a couple of nights with biology, especially during finals, and it will only get tougher, but I think I'm up for it."

Wiser than his years, Fickey's attitude toward school and tennis is one of the reasons Sam Winterbotham recruited the Knoxville native so heavily.

"The most exciting thing about Brandon is that he loves to compete," Winterbotham said. "He's a competitor, and that fits right in to what we're trying to do. In order to play at the level that we expect to compete at, we need people who are gamers, and Brandon is a gamer."

Now that he's arrived on campus, Fickey has wasted no time establishing himself in terms of wins. He won the third flight of the Tennessee Invitational in doubles with Bryan Swartz and finished runner-up in the top draw singles to fellow freshman Mikelis Libietis.

"That was surprising," Fickey said. "I had a lot of adrenaline for that first tournament. I played really well. Playing with Bryan, a senior, he mentored me a little on the court."

The coaching staff hopes Fickey's early success on the court carries over into the spring, when he projects to be a prominent figure in a Vols lineup. That starting roster may feature up to five freshmen, something Fickey is acutely aware of.

"We're a very young team," Fickey said. "We might have five freshmen and Jarryd (Chaplin) is still young too. It will be interesting to see. I know we're all hungry, which is good.

"It will be a tough experience; it will be challenging. I've seen some matches so I know what to expect, but some other guys haven't. We all have to play before we know what it's like."

He may not be able to control where he plays in the lineup or the guy across the court from him, but Fickey realizes the importance of effort in practice.

He also knows he can't shy away from difficulty.

"The coaches expect everything out of you when you're on the court, and for you to be doing what you need to do outside the court as well -- going to class and making grades," Fickey said. "When you step on the court you need to give 110 percent, whether you feel like it or not. Some days, something aches or you're sore, but they don't want to hear about it. You've just got to do you're best and deal with everything later."

 

 

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