Want to get to know some celebrities? If so, perhaps you should consider playing tennis. The Michigan men’s tennis team members have encountered numerous famous players throughout their careers. And not only have some Wolverines met these celebrities, but some have even played with them.
When junior Anthony Jackson was 10 years old, his family traveled to Florida so he could participate in a tennis camp. Coincidentally, it was at this same camp that No. 1- and No. 2- ranked women’s professional tennis players Serena and Venus Williams trained.
Jackson practiced with the soon-to be prodigy Serena Williams for a couple of rounds when Serena’s father Richard directed him to walk up to the net. Mr. Williams then instructed Serena to rip ground strokes as hard as she could straight at Jackson.
“I was really small in those days, and Serena is really strong. Even back then, she was lifting weights and boxing,” Jackson said. “After one drilled me in the stomach, I didn’t wanna come in there after that.”
The Williams sisters have gone on to dominate the women’s tennis world and have even been in a few commercials for McDonald’s.
“If we played now, she would definitely beat me,” Jackson said.
Sophomore Josef Fischer has also had a few celebrity run-ins, including his own meeting with the Williams family. Three years ago, Fischer and his friend were in Florida practicing with both Serena and Venus. After two hours, Fischer had to leave the session, but the head of the academy required Fischer’s friend to stay. He had to stand at the baseline and serve two baskets of balls to each of the sisters while they waited for a return shot.
“My friend couldn’t play tennis for the next week, he was so tired,” Fischer said. “The girls made him serve over and over again, but he couldn’t really say that he wanted to stop because it was the number-one and number-two players in the nation.”
Fischer also got the chance to observe some other top-ranked players in action. Fischer noticed that some players worked incredibly hard while others only practiced for a few hours a day. The shortest practice was held by Xavier Malisse, who is currently ranked No. 19 on the ATP tour.
“Many of the players are so talented and loose that they only had to practice for an hour or two,” Fischer said. “Xavier Malisse would practice for only 45 minutes and then leave.”
Unfortunately, Michigan doesn’t get the opportunity to choose the duration of its practices. But all the work could help prepare the Wolverines for this weekend’s match against Penn State at the Varsity Tennis Center.