Alex Wallace lost his forehand at a bad time.
After winning the first set of the Class 3A state singles finals, that key component of the Union sophomore’s game let him down. The result was a three-set loss to Reid deLaubenfels of Seattle’s Nathan Hale in that championship match last month at Vancouver Tennis Center. The outcome disappointed Wallace, who set his sights on a singles title after taking third at the state tournament in 2009 as a freshman. Despite that disappointment, Wallace did earn The Columbian’s honor as the region’s boys tennis player of the year for the second time.
Have you replayed those last two sets in your mind often, or did you just let it go? “It really hurt, because I was that close. I tasted it, and I just kind of stumbled along the way. The biggest thing is just to let it go. That’s how it’s going to benefit me the most. I can’t let it get to my head. I can’t make it worse than it is.”
How do you feel about being the all-region player of the year for a second consecutive year? “I’m happy about it. I’ve worked really hard on my tennis. It’s been one of my top priorities for a long time now. To get an award like this, I couldn’t ask for more.”
You play year-round and are ranked among the top-10 players your age in the Northwest section. Why do you play high school tennis? “I play high school because I really enjoy the different atmosphere and the different environment that it is. Locally, the Champs tournaments you play, it’s a little like you’re by yourself. You’re competing for yourself. High school tennis is more team-oriented like a lot of other sports. You just don’t get that in tennis very often.”
Most influential coach? “My most influential coach would probably have to be Aaron Gross. He’s helped me so much with my game the last five years. But coach Dave Heitsch on the high school team, he really helps me by mentally keeping me up. He’s always looking out for me. I couldn’t ask for a better high school coach. He really tries to support and encourage me. I think we’ve established a really good relationship over the years.
“There’s been matches he’s gotten me through by keeping me up when I feel bad about my game.”
Do you get down on yourself often? “That mental part is something you always have to improve. If you can’t mentally keep it together on the court, you’re going to have a real difficult time when the going gets tough.”
What the biggest tournament you’ve ever won? “I got third place at a big national tournament in Fresno once (at age 12 or 13). I was up a set against the No. 1 seed and barely lost. It was a really good match, though.”
How old were you when you first played tennis? “4. Not seriously, of course. My parents just wanted something for my exercise. It was pretty much tennis, swimming and basketball.”
What video games do you play? “When I get the chance — and I’ve had a little more time lately with the AP tests over with — I play ‘Call of Duty’ sometimes. I play ‘UFC Undisputed’, as well.”
Do you dream of being a UFC champion someday? It’s something that I’ve actually gotten really into recently. I watch most of the events, all martial arts in general. I just really enjoy following the events. I just think it’s really strategic. … Whenever I get to watch TV now, that’s pretty much the first thing I watch.”
What does tennis mean to you? “I started out just playing it recreationally and just having a good time with it, right? I ended up wanting to do well in the sport, and working hard trying to push through all of the obstacles along the way. Tennis to me is almost a way of life.”
What kind of obstacles does tennis throw at you? “Losing to certain players over and over. You want to beat them eventually. Kids I’ve lost to a lot over the years I’ve caught up to and done really well against them. Overall, the trend is up.”
You’ve said you want to get into Stanford. Would you like to play college tennis for Stanford? “Oh, yeah. That’d be nice. But school is a very high priority.”
Do you see tennis as something you’d like to do competitively after high school? “I think I could give it a shot competitively after high school. Time will tell. I have the ability to. I would like to play college tennis.”
What aspects of tennis came easier to you? “The power department is always where I’ve excelled. My coach told me my game would be based off of aggression, really. That’s what I do best. But I’ve established the tools to my game on aggression and power. My speed’s been getting better, but it’s not something that comes naturally to me. I can keep improving that, but my game will always be based around dictating the play.
How hard is your serve now? “I think I can hit it around 115 (mph), 120 if I get lucky.”
Have you thought ahead to next year when Union moves up to Class 4A? “I pretty much know everyone who are the big guns. My friend Kent (Andreasen, who attends Skyview) will be in there. We’ll just have a good time. I don’t know how many times we’ve played each other. I play with him every day. He’s one of my best friends.”
Favorite movie? “The Pineapple Express. It’s just hilarious. Best new one I’ve seen would have to be “Inglorious Bastards.” I really enjoyed that.
Favorite TV shows? “I watch things like ‘House’, UFC. ‘The Office’ is one of my all-time favorites.”
Favorite school subject? “I really enjoy science and math. For some reason I enjoy school in general. My mom likes that.”
Do you have a favorite Grand Slam tennis tournament to watch? “I watch them all. I can’t really pick one over another.”
How about favorite players? “I like (Juan Martin) Del Potro. I just like the way he hits the ball. He goes for everything.”
Have you met anybody famous? I met Roddick and Blake, and the Bryan brothers, too, at the Davis Cup (in Portland).
Did you expect to win the state title? “I always shot for first place all season. I couldn’t see myself anywhere below it. I knew I had some good competition. I knew the kid that I played in the finals. I’ve always had good matches against him.
“I knew the kid I played in the semis and the quarters, too.”
Have you figured out what happened that caused you to lose the ability to hit your forehand? “I completely lost it during the match. Me, and my coach, and my parents still don’t know what to tell you. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again.
“It’s never really happened to me. It was something new. It just happened there. It could’ve happened anywhere.”
How long did the disappointment from the final match linger? “It took maybe four or five days. Of course I got through it. I just had to tell myself that it was no different than any other tournaments that I lose, right? It happens.”
Did you feel you had a home court advantage, with state at the Vancouver Tennis Center? “I don’t play at VTC that often, so I didn’t see myself as having a home-court advantage over anyone else. It could’ve been a little more of an advantage considering that a lot of people I know were able to attend.”
Where do you usually train? “Most of my training I do at the University of Portland (with Pilots tennis coach) Aaron Gross. I’ve worked with him for four or five years.”
He usually practices after school Mondays through Thursdays at the University of Portland.