It’s match point.The opponent is serving, and you’re trying to break him.The crowd is deafening and you pant in exhaustion. The match time has breached two hours. What separates you from your opponent?According to Brian Hung, a junior on the Michigan men’s tennis team, it’s mental toughness. “When it comes down to it, everyone’s game is just about the same,” Hung said. “What really separates the best players from the average is their mental toughness on the court.” Realizing the importance of such a mental edge, Hung chose to spend his summer participating in professional and collegiate tournaments around the world. Most notably, the Hong Kong native had the privilege of representing his country in the World University Games held in Turkey this past August. In their 46th year of existence, the games give collegiate athletes throughout the world the opportunity to play against select players in nearly every collegiate sport.Though it may seem like a big deal to play on such a stage representing one’s country, it is a familiar role for Hung. “I’ve been representing Hong Kong in juniors tournaments since I was 12 years old,” Hung said. “It’s a situation I’m pretty used to and comfortable being in.”Such experience and comfort level proved valuable in the games. Chosen to play in singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches, Hung and doubles partner Jack Hui were able to defeat a duo from Thailand. In mixed doubles, Hung and partner Kuen Lam experienced more success, beating a pair from Thailand and Italy, before being outmatched by the top-seeded tandem of Chinese Taipei in the semi-finals.Success at such a young age may seem surprising, but for Hung, early success has been a pattern in his life. He picked up the game at the age of 3 1/2 while watching his older brother and father playing at a hometown tennis club. The club had an age minimum of six to be allowed to play at the facility but chose to make an exception for Hung when it saw his ability to swing the racket and grasp the game. A skill that would certainly prove useful at the collegiate level.When deciding where to attend college, Hung looked for a university that would make a similar exception.”I wanted to be able to play right away,” Hung said. “Many of the schools I was looking at were going to have me on the bench or playing as a low-seeded player my first year. By coming to Michigan, I was able to play No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles as a freshman.”It looks like playing Hung right away was a beneficial move for the Wolverines. In each of his first two seasons, Hung led the Wolverines in overall singles victories, and he helped the team finish third in the Big Ten last year.But in order for Hung to take his game to the next level, he needs an approach that goes beyond the everyday regimen of practice.”For me, it’s about the mental part of the game,” Hung said. “I used to get down on myself when I wasn’t doing well out on the court. This year, I really need to believe in myself more.”Whether mental toughness is achieved through simply adopting a winning attitude or by challenging oneself against top-notch players, Hung believes he’s mentally ready to take that next step.”I really think that playing against some of the top players from other countries will only help me get better against collegiate players this year,” Hung said. “It really helped my confidence.”If Hung is right, and mental toughness really is what separates good from great, then his experiences this summer will propel him toward a great season.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.