Jan. 14, 2012
This is the fifth in 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.
BY WILL REDMOND
Legend has it that Taylor Patrick was born with tennis racket in hand, and given the pedigree Patrick boasts; it is very possible the legend is true.
Since the age of five, Patrick has lived between the lines on tennis courts.
"My dad was a coach at Kentucky when I was born and my uncle is the Lady Volunteers tennis coach here at Tennessee," explained Patrick.
With elite coaching around him constantly, Patrick began to develop his craft. Day in and day out, lessons on the court would be learned, and with each lesson, Patrick began grasping the intangibles of the game. His ability at a young age was undeniable, but it is his drive on the court that now best describes him.
"It is just in my brain that if someone plays me a ball, I'm going to go get it before it takes that second bounce," Patrick said. "I love running around on the court."
Running on the court is nothing new to a life-long tennis player, but Patrick believes it plays to his game.
"The goal of most tennis players is to run their opponent," Patrick said, "but that plays to my strength. I want them to run me."
Patrick cites the points that no one believes he can make that fuel his drive.
"I want people to wonder, 'how did he get that?' That's just my favorite part of the sport; getting to the ball that no one is supposed to get to," Patrick said.
In the Spring of 2011, Patrick would have to overcome adversity using simply that drive instilled in him as a child to fight through a match against Wake Forest when he was called on to play singles after senior Matteo Fago had pulled out with an injury.
After battling through the first set and winning in a tiebreaker on court 6 against Zach Leslie, Patrick found himself struggling in the second set with a strained hip.
"That took away my running ability, which is my strength on the court, and I lost the second set pretty easily," Patrick said.
Fighting with everything he had, Patrick managed to reach a ten-point tiebreaker in the third set.
"On the last point of the match," Patrick said. "I ran back and forth on what strength I had left and returned a big shot that was going to be a winner."
Time stood still as the ball faded just left of the line. He had missed the point.
"I just remember falling to the ground as my hip and leg started cramping," said Patrick.
He had given all he had for that point and come up an inch short.
Many would argue that great moments cannot be born from defeat. Taylor Patrick knows that is simply not the case.
"Even though I lost, I can definitely say I gave it my all," Patrick said, "and there is no shame in that."
Lesser individuals would have found excuses to get off the court, but Patrick dug deep within himself and used his drive to overcome the obstacles. That drive is what wakes him up in the morning, gets him to class on time, and carries him through tennis practice.
Drive is not a skill that is simply taught like the backhand swing of a tennis racquet, you must be born with it. Taylor Patrick was.