Rocks Doubles Dream Team Looking for Championships

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photo by Sean Steer

Trinity doubles team Austin Strause and Mustafa Gardezi

Sean Steer, Staff Reporter

“Oh, look it’s Trinity!” say a group of kids walking by the Rocks’ practice. They stand and watch in amazement at the volleying of the small green ball. The shoes screeching and the “thwack” of the ball hitting a racket can only mean one thing: tennis season has started. As temperatures rose and the first day of spring came around, Trinity’s tennis team heated up at the Kentucky Duals tournament at Louisville’s Top Gun Tennis Academy.

Trinity head coach Chris Mather, an ’86 alum who helped his fellow tennis Rocks win the 1986 state championship, continually molds his players to reach their potential. Despite the fact that practices were interrupted by winter snowstorms, the players were eager to get the season started.

“They are a great group of kids and work very well together,” Mather said of his squad.

Senior leaders Austin Strause and Mustafa Gardezi recently represented the Rocks in doubles at Top Gun against Covington Catholic High School and St. Xavier.

Gardezi, who has been playing tennis since he was seven years old, has grown as a player since his freshman year. His goal is to make the state championships and win doubles.  

The competitiveness of the match helps me get through tough matches. It helps me focus on just beating my opponent.”

— Austin Strause

Gardezi’s style of play is ferocious, much like that of his favorite player, Roger Federer. Before every match Gardezi likes to listen to music while stretching and getting pumped up to play.

“Staying mentally focused is my greatest difficulty,” Gardezi said. He overcomes this challenge by focusing on beating his opponent. Gardezi said the support of his team members and his parents help him through tough matches.

His favorite shot is his forehand, which is very effective, although the team’s favorite shot is his incredible “tweener shot.” This is when he is facing away from the net and hits the ball between his legs. His greatest accomplishment on the court was getting to the semifinals in state last year and winning championships when he was younger.

He said the high point of his career has been the last two years at Trinity. Gardezi will most likely attend the University of Louisville but does not plan to play competitive tennis there.

Strause has been playing since he was eight and has also played for Trinity since his freshman year. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother and father, who both played tennis. His goal this season is to make the team as good as possible and to win state titles in singles and doubles.

This appears to be an achievable goal given Strause’s fierce style of play and intense focus on winning. Strause also patterns his game after Federer. Strause’s pre-match ritual includes eating a light snack for energy, listening to music, and planning a strategy to defeat his opponent.

Gardezi and Strause both like the state tournament because they enjoy the challenge, and both prefer doubles, which is why they are so effective when playing together. Gardezi and Strause enter their matches knowing what their strategy will be and communicate to each other by talking and using hand signals when playing.

“My favorite shot is obviously Mustafa’s ‘tweener shot,’” Strause joked. His actual favorite shot is his own forehand. Strause, who said his greatest accomplishment was getting to the state quarterfinals last year, plans to attend Miami University (Ohio) and may play tennis there even though it is only a club sport.

Strause’s biggest difficulty is having the patience and perseverance to stick to his approach against his opponent. He said, “The competitiveness of the match helps me get through tough matches. It helps me focus on just beating my opponent.”