- File Photo/Daily
By Jason Rubinstein, For the Daily
Published February 20, 2013
To classify redshirt sophomore Justin Rossi’s tennis career as frustrating would be a great understatement. Rossi has been through just about everything, from facing tough opponents to having multiple injuries in his college career.
Rossi, a native of Novi, Mich., was a blue-chip recruit out of high school and was a top-20 player in the country according to tennisrecruiting.net and helped headline a top-five recruiting class for the Wolverines in 2010. Growing up near Ann Arbor, Rossi was familiar with the program and the staff.
“(Rossi) was definitely regarded very high because of his junior results,” said junior Shaun Bernstein. “He was thought as one of the top guys from our class and was expected to work extremely hard. He had a very good reputation as a hard worker and practice player. He definitely had some high expectations coming in.”
Rossi stepped in and proved to be type of player the Wolverines had recruited. He competed well in the fall, and rightfully secured a top spot for Michigan’s dual season.
“We thought he was one of the toughest guys on the team,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “We had a group of guys at a similar level, but we thought Justin was the toughest and most resilient and could handle the pressure of playing a top spot.”
But the dual season provided challenges that Rossi hadn’t seen before. Rossi was not exposed to top-tier competition week after week in high school. His college inexperience showed as he finished the season with a 15-18 record. The results might not have been what he expected, but the future remained very bright.
“Going into my sophomore year I was playing the best tennis I have ever played,” Rossi said. “I was looking forward to the season and becoming a dominant force on the court.”
Just as Rossi had become accustomed to the college game, things took a drastic turn. While playing at the Harvard Invitational, Rossi chased a ball and planted his right foot funny. And a loud snap later, Rossi’s career looked bleak.
Lucky enough for Rossi, an orthopedic surgeon had been sitting in the stands and rushed out onto the court to put his foot back in place.
Rossi had broken both his tibia and fibula. Three weeks after the injury, Rossi had surgery on both parts and started rehabbing so he could play in the spring season. Two plates and 12 screws later, Rossi’s fibula still hadn’t fully healed. For precautionary reasons, Rossi had to get a second surgery.
After the second surgery, the future remained bright for Rossi, who had hoped to make it back for the Big Ten season. But just as things were looking favorable, Rossi broke his fifth metatarsal on his left foot during a rehab session. This led Rossi to take a medical redshirt.
But Rossi would not let this bump in the road stop him. He’s almost back to full strength and is now becoming a steady contributor for the Wolverines. His on-the-court energy is electric and his joking attitude is all back – something Berque said the team greatly missed.
“The injury has made me stronger,” Rossi said. “When you face adversity and overcome it, it makes you stronger as a person and I use that to fuel me on the court.”
Rossi is beginning to regain form, as he faces one last obstacle – trust. Once Rossi believes he won’t reinjure himself, he can be the star that Michigan coaches once believed he could be. There is no doubt teammates think highly of Rossi.
“He has a huge upside,” Bernstein said. “He is one of the best athletes on the team. He has a ton of power and an unbelievable work ethic, and I think by next year he will be able to compete for a top spot in the lineup and earn a national ranking. He has a real shot at making an impact on collegiate tennis.”