Student-Athlete Spotlight

Racket man soars to No. 1

Andy Gardalen uses force of will to become Grizzlies' top singles player


Last summer Andy Gardalen had one thing on his mind and he wasn't about to let anything stop him.

The ThunderRidge senior was a No. 3 singles player in 2018 but he was determined to be the Grizzlies' No. 1 player this season, and his hard work over the summer paid off as he is now playing No. 1 singles.

“Reaching from that position (No. 3 singles) to the top seed on the tennis team was the focus all summer, working five days a week playing tennis in the blazing hot sun,” said Gardalen. “We worked on footwork, a lot of volley techniques and ground strokes and my coach (Cory Vargas) pushed me to my limits.

“My biggest improvement is I focused on my mentality. Back when I was at No. 3 singles I would have a bad mindset going into a game and I would get down on myself every shot that I would take. Now I'm more in control of my tennis game.”

Key stats:

Gardalen is 1-1 in the first two matches this season. He was 7-3 a year ago as a No. 3 singles player and qualified for the state tournament.

Coach's take:

"He just picked up a racket the summer before his freshman year and just through athleticism, determination and hard work he's moved up to No. 1 singles. He's a great leader and phenomenal for our team."

— Cory Vargas, ThunderRidge boys tennis coach

Q&A with Gardalen

What's your favorite meal?

Stuffed shells with cottage cheese or cream cheese in the middle or classic pepperoni-sausage pizza.

Who is your favorite athlete and why?

Rafel Nadal. Every since I was 6 or 7 years old, he was my grandmother's favorite player. He just has a really good tennis game.

What would be a perfect performance in tennis?

In my opinion a perfect performance would be playing your hardest every point, every game, every set, hitting good winners, overheads and having the right mindset on the court.

What is your favorite class in school?

Physics, because I like to study how objects move, and like every day we apply physics. I like the idea of rocket physics.

What do you like to do away from tennis?

I go camping a lot, 15 or 20 times a year. I love to camp and roast marshmallows and watch the campfire glow.

What is your favorite song?

“T.N.T.” by AC/DC. I like the guitar riffs and the singer, his voice.

What is more difficult, serving an ace or returning a serve?

Returning a serve, just because of how much spin they put on it. Sometimes my feet are not fully awake yet and it they are speedy serves. I get aced on most of the times because I have to reach for it.

Are you aggressive or cautious on your second serves?

I am definitely aggressive. On a second serve normally people dink it in to play it safe but if you put more spin on the serve, it will go in more likely than dinking it in 5 miles an hour.


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