Backhand critical for men’s tennis team

After a strong fall season, the men’s tennis team is gearing up for a run at its eighth straight ODAC title.

With his crafty backhand, Jordan Krasner, ‘17, is a three-time All- ODAC performer and former conference Player of the Year.

Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

With his crafty backhand, Jordan Krasner, ‘17, is a three-time All- ODAC performer and former conference Player of the Year.

Tanner Smith

Jordan Krasner, ’17, and Mitchell Thomas, ’20, are on opposite ends of the experience spectrum as college tennis players, but they share a connection through their favorite shot: the backhand.

Krasner, nicknamed “Crafty Kras” by his teammates and coaches, was named ODAC Player of the Year as a sophomore. He is far from a conventional player, as he gained a unique style through playing a different sport as a kid.

“I am a left-handed player playing right-handed from the baseline so that a lot of times confuses my opponents,” Krasner said. “I played baseball when I was little and was a lefty in baseball so I naturally throw with my left hand, which is the equivalent of serving in tennis so I serve lefty. But then in baseball I batted left-handed also, which is the equivalent of a righty backhand because it is the same grip with your hands.”

Because of his baseball past Krasner’s backhand comes much more naturally than his forehand, and has long been the strength of his game.

“The backhand has always been my shot,” Krasner said. “It is the same motion as my baseball swing and I have a stronger left hand. For most people their backhand is their weaker shot if they are right-handed because they have a weak left hand but my strong left-hand definitely helps with that.”

Along with his backhand Krasner, at 5’9”, relies on his brains and guile to help him win against taller and bigger opponents.

“I have always used my craftiness and mental toughness to get by my opponents,” Krasner said. “I hit a lot of weird shots with different kinds of spin, I slice a lot of balls and I hit a lot of flat shots. People have to get used to it and so it can throw them off a little bit and frustrate them.”

While Krasner and his doubles partner, Will Bannister, ’17, return as the team’s top players and co-captains, the team has also had to incorporate a lot of new players with the loss of four seniors from last year. This has allowed opportunities for freshmen such as Thomas to make strong first impressions.

“He [Thomas] has an unbelievable backhand,” Head Coach David Detwiler said. “He is an excellent player and an overall great person. I think he is going to really help us out in the spring with his tennis and strengthen our lineup.”

Thomas was able to make enough of an early impression to compete as the team’s No. 3 player in an exhibition at Mary Washington on Sept. 17-18, and then play in the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional Tournament. Thomas went 2–1 in singles play during the tournament, but has been very impressed by the level of competition he has seen so far.

“I would say that the level of play is higher than I expected, especially coming from some of the top schools that we played recently,” Thomas said. “I had lots of confidence coming in and it is not that

I have lost confidence, but it was somewhat of a revelation that the level of play in Division III tennis is rising each year.”

While Krasner relies on his craftiness to confuse his opponents, Thomas’ game is a little more conventional and relies more on power. “I would describe myself as an aggressive baseliner,” Thomas said. “I try to take control of the point using my backhand, which is my steadier shot and definitely my strength. Everything else I try to keep solid and I try to move forward when I can.”

The ITA Southeast Regional Tournament was the conclusion of the tennis team’s fall campaign. They will take the court again in February.