Jan. 26, 2012
BY MATT MAGILL
Knoxville native Brandon Fickey is off to a fast start to his dual match career. No questions there.
The hometown freshman went 3-0 at No. 2 singles and 2-1 in No. 2 doubles in the Vols' opening weekend at Goodfriend Tennis Center.
He started the season with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Memphis' Johnny Grimal, a player who had beaten him during the fall season. He also provided the clinching win in Tennessee's 5-2 victory over 15th-ranked Georgia Tech.
To start off the weekly Q&A features, Fickey talks first dual match, his strict superstitions and his hypothetical band.
Q: What was your first dual match like?
A: I came out very nervous in doubles and I didn't have the best showing. Thank goodness courts 1 and 3 got the two points for us there. I went out for singles and Coach Woodruff told me that I needed to tell myself I wasn't nervous. I ended playing a really great match against a guy I lost to pretty badly in the fall. After I got the first match under me, I was good to go.
Q: In doubles, did Edward Jones kind of help keep you calm? Was he able to offer you any advice based on his experiences?
A: He has a lot of experience. He keeps me in perspective out there on the court. He definitely has more court awareness than I do. It's good to have someone that's been there and done that before out there with me on the court.
Q: Did you feed off the fans' energy during your matches? A: I love playing in front of people I know or really just playing in front of anyone that's going to come. I really get into it; it's my personality.
Q: I noticed you got emotional a couple of times during your matches. Is that the crowd, your teammates or just something you do?
A: I've got a very fiery personality sometimes especially when I want to win. Sometimes I do lose my cool every once in awhile. You can't let that effect you for too long. If I do well, I'm going to celebrate for myself and try to get the team going. I'm going to encourage myself to do better.
Q: When you're playing a match, what do you think about? Are you thinking about strategy or are you just playing based on instincts?
A: You definitely need to think. You have to think strategy, but it's tough with all the noise and the crowd and everything going on. I do think a lot about what I'm doing on the next point and where I want to go with the match. We talk to the coaches about how to play a certain guy, so obviously it's in the back of your mind. You have one or two go-to shots prepared for when you're in a tight situation.
Q: What was it like getting your first dual match win? Did you feel relieved or was it just a feeling of joy?
A: After I won, I was happy for myself. But it's a team thing. We lost that first one. That gave me more motivation to win the second and third dual matches for myself. I try to take care of what I can control on my court. Hopefully the rest of the team can feed off me or I can feed off them. If someone's down, someone brings the other up.
Q: The team really bounced back well after the loss on Friday. What spurred that? Did you guys have a meeting and talk about it at all?
A: We all sat down. We didn't have long to talk about it because we had a match right after that. Coach Sam Winterbotham told us that match didn't make our season. We couldn't afford to go 0-2. It was either 1-1 and go from there or 0-2. The first match had already happened; we had already lost--why not go out there and win the next one?
Q: Sunday you got a good win over a ranked opponent in Georgia Tech. How big was that for the team?
A: We had a nice hit on Saturday as a team and we talked about the match. They're a very good team with some very good players. That was an opportunity for us to show we are good and that we are better than losing to Memphis. That was the best we played all weekend on all 6 courts.
Q: Do you have any superstitions when you're playing?
A: If I win a point with a ball, I like to use that same ball again. I'm very OCD and neat. My water bottles are both sitting right next to each other. If I have another shirt, it's folded and sitting right next to that. I like to have my bag to the left side of the bench. I'm pretty superstitious.
Q: That's a good lead-in for my next question, because I've heard some guys say you are pretty OCD off the court as well.
A: I get that from my dad. My bed is always made, there's no trash on the floor, all my clothes are folded. I put polos with polos and t-shirts with t-shirts. I get a lot of crap for it, but I can't help it. That's just how I am.
Q: Some people would call that organized. Would you prefer that over OCD?
A: I'm very organized. I've always been that way. Everything's in its spot.
Q: When we talked in December, we talked about your ambidexterity. Do you think you could ever swap hands in the middle of a point if you needed to?
A: I've thought about it. Sometimes I wish I would have always played left-handed. That's way too far gone now. My backhand is one of my best shots so as far as I'm concerned, I'm doing fine without it.
Q: Do you think you could ever swap and surprise an opponent?
A: If I'm on the dead run on the backhand side, I've done that before just to get back into the point. I don't use it often, but I've used it once or twice in my career.
Q: Tonight, Roger Federer takes on Rafa Nadal. (Nadal won in four sets.) That's a big tennis rivalry. Which one do you prefer?
A: I'll definitely, definitely take Nadal. He's a guy who gets the crowd going. If he's down, he's still fighting for every point. He never gives up; that's what makes him so tough to beat.
Q: If you could pick any player's ability--like Federer's forehand--which ability would you pick?
A: I wouldn't take a stroke, but I would take Roger Federer's court awareness. He seems to take the least amount of energy to get to a spot on the court. He's so smooth with everything. I think that's the biggest part of tennis sometimes. Just knowing where to be is so important, and I think that falls under court awareness.
Q: What are some of the things you do when you aren't doing schoolwork or tennis?
A: I love to play the drums. I've played for about 10 years or so now. I started when I was 7. When I'm at home, I love to do that. As far as the summer, I've always volunteered at the hospital in the emergency room with my mom. Medicine has always been really interesting to me.
Q: Have you recruited anyone from the team to form a band? Who would be in it?
A: Colton Norton has jokingly mentioned it. Peter (Nagovnak) plays--who knows what all he plays. Ed's played violin before. I play drums. Hunter Reese likes to sing, even though it's pretty bad. We could get something going if we wanted to.
Q: Violin, classical piano and drums would be an interesting group.
A: It's kind of like our team: a lot of different personalities put together but it all works out.
Q: What kind of genre would you guys play with that group?
A: I would want to go country, but Colton and Ed hate country. Reese is more of a R&B guy. I have no idea what we could do with a violin and drums. I have no idea; who knows what music we would put out. It would be terrible to a lot of people, but we'd find a way to make it sound good to us.
Q: You like country, but I doubt country music is very popular on the team. Do some of them not appreciate country music as much as you?
A: I've done my fair share to introduce it to Mikelis, Peter and Trym, who I live with. Peter and Mikelis have taken it on a little bit. Ed and Colton hate it. I'm trying to get them to like it more, but Ed can't understand it. Growing up in the South, it's what I like.
Q: Have you seen any good movies recently?
A: I just watched Warrior. It's about two brothers who get separated and end up fighting each other in a tournament. There's a lot of determination in that movie; it's a good, emotional story.
Q: If you weren't playing tennis, what other sport would you like to compete in?
A: Baseball. I actually chose to play tennis over baseball when I was 11 or 12. Some of the guys on the baseball team I grew up playing with. I miss it. I wish I would have played longer.
Q: I asked you this before, but it didn't make the media guide. Will you grow out your hair so you'll look more like Screech from Saved by the Bell?
A: Yeah, I think I might. They want me to so they can yell that at me at dual matches. I think I might let it grow out in the spring just to have fun with it, but sometimes when it's hot I like to have my hair shorter. I do look like Screech sometimes, I'll be honest about that.