February 27, 2018 - 10:00 am
For Michael Andre, an improved forehand might be his ticket to college.
The Palo Verde High sophomore changed the way he swung a tennis racquet, and the results have been noticeable.
Andre won a United States Tennis Association Level 2 National 16-year-old boys tournament in Long Beach, California, on Feb. 12.
“I had a technical flaw with my forehand,” he said. “I started working on it in December and basically have spent the last two months fixing it. I hit the ball so much better and harder now that I have my whole body behind my forehand. It’s made me a more complete player.”
Andre, who uses his speed and quickness to run down balls and return shots, didn’t lose a set in six matches in winning at Long Beach. His coach, Saad Ashraf, said he saw this coming.
“He’s been improving the last few months,” said Ashraf, who has coached Andre on and off since Andre came to the Darling Tennis Center as a 7-year-old after his father tried to get him off the couch and away from playing video games. “But experience is the biggest piece of the puzzle. The more tournaments he plays, the more success he has, the more his confidence grows.”
Andre is expected to play in at least 10 events in 2018, the biggest being the Level 1 Easter Bowl Tournament this month at Indian Wells, California. There, he’ll face some of the world’s best 16-year-olds.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “The top 64 players are in the Easter Bowl, and to be one of them means a lot to me.”
Andre doesn’t play tennis for the Panthers — or any other sport, for that matter. He’s attending Palo Verde on a residential affidavit that prohibits him from competing in athletics at the school. He had played quarterback on the freshman football team at Liberty prior to transferring to Palo Verde. His mother lives within in Palo Verde’s boundaries.
That’s not keeping colleges from tracking Andre on the tennis court. He expects his recruiting to pick up at the beginning of his junior year, and his hope is to pick up a scholarship and play collegiately.
“I want to go somewhere where I can grow as a player and a person, be challenged but have fun,” he said.
Andre spends about 15 hours a week practicing and he said it served him well in winning the USTA Level 2 event.
“When you’re winning, it’s not hard to train,” he said. “I was getting to balls most guys can’t, and my defense was really good. I was able to keep my focus, and it did a lot for my confidence.”
Andre also plays doubles, teaming with local player Blake Kasday.
“Everything is so much quicker in doubles,” he said. “You’re just reacting and not thinking so much. It’s actually a lot of fun.”
Andre’s play in singles is what’s getting him noticed. And as he points toward this month’s Easter Bowl, he does so knowing a good week can propel him to a level he has aspired to reach. It could lead to sponsorship opportunities and help with paying travel expenses for later this year.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “At nationals, I was in an Airbnb sharing a bed, walking to the tournament and eating off the dollar value menu at McDonald’s. Hopefully I can get my ranking up and maybe pick up some sponsors.”