COVINGTON -- Will Ebert’s career in tennis at the high school level was never supposed to happen.
If it was up to Ebert, the rising senior at Eastside High School would soon be gearing up for his final year of baseball, a sport he grew to love in his years prior to high school. But as the passion started to dwindle little by little from his eighth grade year to his sophomore year, Ebert’s plans changed.
After three years of trying out for the Eastside baseball team, Ebert was turned away all three times. That’s when he made the decision to put down his glove and pick up a racket, a moment in time he’ll never forget.
“It was pretty discouraging about not making the baseball team,” Ebert said. “Baseball was a sport I had always played and it was hard to finally let it go. I tried out for baseball eighth grade year up until my sophomore year, which was when I started playing tennis. I used the doubt to motivate me since not many people expected much of me playing tennis, especially after trying out three times for a team and never making it.”
Ebert’s reasoning behind picking up a racket rather than another specialized sport offered at the school, such as golf or track and field had no rhyme or reason to it at the time. No one in his family had played the sport seriously, but that didn’t stop him from giving the sport a try.
“I decided I'd play tennis just because I had the foundation to excel at it,” Ebert said. “I had hand-eye coordination, as well as footwork and my height which were all things I learned from baseball. So the decision felt seamless.”
As most any athlete comes to realize in the beginning stages of picking up a new sport, the challenges Ebert faced were tough. While the results on the court didn’t come as fast as he wanted them to, Ebert soon received signs that he was improving.
“I saw the results that I wanted towards the end of the year at the Region 4-AAAA tournament,” Ebert said. “The singles players for Druid Hills and Woodward were equally incredible, and I had to play both of them. Both of the matches were great and there were a lot of really good points and aces that helped me realize that my work had been paying off.”
Ebert was making the strides he was hoping to make all without taking a private lesson from a tennis coach. Instead, Ebert drew from other resources that helped him steadily improve.
“The practice consisted of always being the first one on the court and the last one to leave the courts,” Ebert said. “Being on the court isn’t the only thing, either. I spent a lot of time watching old Wimbledon and other grand slam tournament matches. Understanding why a player does something makes it much easier to learn and execute when you have little time to think.”
While playing most of his matches as a doubles teammate to Jalen Davis, the results continued to pour in during Ebert’s sophomore season in 2018. Ebert helped the Eagles reach the state tournament and won more several matches.
“The best thing to notice when you’ve worked so hard for something is that your work is paying off,” Ebert said. “When you play a lot of tennis, you play a lot of good tennis players. It was really exciting to see how every time I played one of those really good players, I would always do a little bit better than I did the last time. Of course, I still lost to them a lot of the time, but I could easily see how far I had come in such a short time.”
Following Ebert’s junior season, he reached out to Huntingdon College via email. After talking back and forth, he was given an offer by the program, something he said he never saw coming.
They seemed interested because I'm tall,” Ebert said. “They invited me to the campus when I sent them film of me playing. When I started, I didn’t actually expect myself to ever get any attention from any college, let alone an offer.”
Once my mindset changed, so did that thought. I felt that I had something to prove to myself. If I wasn't going to be in college playing baseball, i was going to be in college for tennis. I had the work ethic, I just needed a coach to give me the time of day, which is what huntingdon gave me.”
Now gearing up for his final year of high school tennis, the 6-foot-5 senior is hoping to go out with a bang next spring.
“My goal is to have a solid run at state,” Ebert said. “Last year, we had four returning players and a very young base to build from. I think all of our freshmen worked hard and got a lot better as the season progressed. They just didn’t have the time to show it with so few matches left and I think this is the year where we will be able to go far.”
As far as Ebert’s playing style goes, it’s something that is starting to take shape. Using his height to his advantage is something he said he’s worked on a lot.
“I really think my play style is unique, actually,” Ebert said. “Being 6-foot-5, I generate a lot of power serving. But a lot of my strokes are hit with intention rather than power. My serve is where I've spent most of my time and I think it is my biggest strength. I’ve been working a lot on more top spin so I can hit the ball harder while keeping it in more and also for narrow shots to the corners of the court. I play rather safe a lot of the times, so I've been working on being much more aggressive by taking more risks and using more net play.”