Jan. 20, 2011
The first few weeks of Jarryd Chaplin's Tennessee career could be described as a whirlwind at best.
The freshman from Sydney, Australia, graduated from high school in mid-December and joined the Vols just in time for a team trip to Hawaii along with fellow January newcomer and current roommate Hunter Reese. Two days after returning from a successful week at the Rainbow Warrior Challenge, Tennessee then hosted the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships in the renovated Goodfriend Tennis Center.
Through his first two collegiate events, Chaplin has posted a 4-3 record in singles and a 3-1 mark in doubles with three different partners. He and the Vols start the dual match season at home Friday when they play East Tennessee State at 2 p.m.
While he wasn't entirely aware of it at the time, Chaplin has become part of a long tradition of Australians to play for the Vols. An Aussie has been on the Tennessee roster every year since 1988, and he joins fellow countryman John-Patrick Smith on the team this spring. Smith,the three-time All-America senior, hails from Townsville.
With his first team match approaching, Chaplin discusses luaus, the art of the serve and volley style of tennis and even singing in the shower in this week's Q&A.
Q: What's been your first impressions of life in Knoxville?
A: My first impression was that it was very cold compared to where I've been from. It's summer right now in Australia, so I was coming from the beach and whatnot. But I love it over here so far. A lot of people talk about the Aussie tradition here, and I'm glad to fulfill my part in that. Also, everyone so welcoming here, which makes any transition overseas a lot easier.
Q: Were you away of that Aussie tradition here at UT before you came here?
A: I only understood how long it's been going when I read about it. There's a lot of really good names there and a tradition of coaches as well. It's a bit of a privilege to come and step in there.
Q: Did you know JP before you came here?
A: I had heard a lot about JP - a lot of really good things - but we were never really close mates back home. We just didn't know each other that well, but anything I've seen of him over here has been extremely positive.
Q: Let's talk about your trip over here. You had to finish up school in December and get here in a hurry. What's the transition been like?
A: It's probably some kind of record for me getting here. I graduated in the middle of December and had to get all my paperwork taken care of, all in about eight days or something. It's something I look back on now and don't know how I did it. The reason I did it so quickly was that I was so excited to get over here. It was very obvious when I came over to see the team that this is a close bunch of guys, and I think I've fit in really well.
Q: Talk a little about the team trip to Hawaii. A lot of tennis and a lot of fun too. What was that like?
A: We had the luau, and something was unfortunately posted on the Internet of me trying to hula on stage. My hips were a little sore the next day. It was good fun, and I think those kinds of trips do a lot for team bonding and making everyone so much more comfortable with each other. We spent a lot of time in the sun and then we beat a couple schools as well, so that was the best part.
Q: You're new to the team, so what are some facts about you that people may not know?
A: They might not know I'm a serve-and-volleyer. That's kind of a rarity these days, so that's what they should expect to see a lot of that if they come watch me.
I'm from Sydney. I homeschooled the last few years of school. That was tough, and it's actually refreshing to come here and be able to associate with people in class.
My brother, Ben, is in the second-to-last year of high school now, and he plays rugby on the front row. I don't knock around with him too much anymore. I'm very close with my family, and that was a big part of my decision when I chose to come over here. I love all sports and being around people, and I feel like I can bring a lot to a group. I just love being around a close group of guys and it just kind of made sense for me to come here.
Q: How did you pick up the serve and volley style?
A: I grew up idolizing Pat Rafter, and volleying was one of my strengths. And you know, there are times where you have to play to your strengths, and I had to do it a couple of times and really enjoyed doing it. It just kind of made sense to come up to the net more often, and that became the way I based my game. I often play with a bit of aggression too, and it's kind of conducive to that style too. (laughs) I don't know if that's a strength of mine, but hopefully it won't get me in too much trouble with the referees.
Q: You've played a few matches now. How has the competition been?
A: Strong. I didn't realize how much depth there would be coming over. You know, watching the SEC Indoors, and there are guys playing in the final and guys playing in the back draw, and there's a certain level that all the guys were playing at - and that was a pretty high level. I didn't think the lower guys would be playing at the level. I'm extremely impressed with it, and it's starting to make sense why college is such a good avenue for the professional ranks.
Q: The first dual match is coming up against ETSU. What are you looking forward to about that?
A: The best thing about it for me is that I don't know what to expect. That's a really cool thing. I'd love to be able to play that first day, whether it's singles or doubles and experience what it's like, to be able to play in front of everyone from Knoxville. I know it's the start of the season and we've got an unbelievable team at the moment, which I'm sure most fans already know.
I guess it's the atmosphere I'm looking forward to, being able to play in front of the home crowd. If I can say something here, I'd encourage anyone in Knoxville to come on out and watch us because it doesn't go unnoticed. We really appreciate a crowd.
Q: Now let's get into some random questions here. You've traveled all over the world playing tennis, what was the weirdest food you've ever eaten?
A: You could probably mix in the most interesting place I've ever been, and that was Israel. It was a very unique experience I guess. When you say food, I'd say probably chicken feet in Hong Kong probably and I'd say probably sheep intestines too. It wasn't the best, and that one stayed with me for a while. In Australia, up North, I went to a tournament, and ate about a pound of crocodile. It was pretty tasty, like chicken. That's probably the most obscure.
Q: You were here for a football game in the fall at Neyland Stadium. What was that like?
A: Yeah, we were playing Ole Miss. First SEC win of the year. I'm going to take credit for that. Just my present got the guys over the line. It was incredible, like nothing I've ever seen before, just how passionate everyone was. That really seemed like what college is about, coming together each week. I loved it.
Q: Do you have any off-court hobbies?
A: I'm a bit of a culprit when it comes to singing in the shower. I think Hunter could probably vouch for that. I'm pretty off-pitch most times. I'm sure he throws the headphones on when I start. I love playing golf. I'm not very good. Just hanging out with my mates and stuff, and in this case, it's my team. And what else?
I love rugby as well. I've got a favorite team in Australia, the Parramatta Eels. I pretty much live and die by them, starting from a very young age. They're biggest rival is my brother's team, so we've got a little family thing going on.