Tennis standout Brandon Roode takes state Class S title
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Jun. 14, 2011
Tennis has been Brandon Roode’s life since the age of 6, when a family vacation on Cape Cod put a racquet in his hand for the first time.
“I tried it out and I fell in love with it,” Roode said. “When I came back, all I wanted to do was play tennis. I didn’t want to play video games or anything else.”
Now, more than a decade, countless hours of practice, lessons and tournaments later, Roode has reached a milestone: he’s the 2011 Eastern Connecticut Conference and state boys’ tennis champion. And, as a senior set to graduate Saturday from Griswold High School, he’s still determined to keep tennis in the forefront of his life.
“It’s been quite a bit of a journey, but it was worth every minute,” said Roode.
And he does mean “journey” in the literal sense. Unlike baseball, soccer or football, where town recreation programs provide plenty of experience for up-and-coming athletes, a promising young tennis player has to go it alone. And that means a lot of driving to tournaments.
“Mom and Dad have taken me just about everywhere in the state,” Roode said. “My first [tournament] was in Fairfield. Most of them are two-day tournaments, so you’re back the next day. We love it – it brings us all together.”
Roode said that he dedicates his matches to his parents and friends, who have followed and supported his career through thick and thin.”Whether they know it or not, it means so much to me that they are there,” he said. “My parents and my grandfather are really important to me. I think that’s what makes me successful.”
Roode is connected with the United States Tennis Association league, the largest competitive tennis league in the world. Competing in their tournaments has strengthened his game, he said. “There’s nothing that competition can’t fix. I believe you only get better when you compete,” he said.
Roode is attending Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., in the fall on a tennis scholarship. He’s planning to major in sports management, and will continue playing USTA competitive tennis through the summer.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m going to take a week off because the season this year was very, very long. Then I’ll start competing again.
“Ever since I was 6 years old, it’s always been a dream of mine to step out on a big stage and compete,” he said. “There’s not a day that I don’t think about it.” He realizes that pro tennis will present him with far greater challenges than he’s faced thus far, but he feels ready. “I’ll do everything I can do and have no regrets,” he said.
Despite his undefeated regular season record this year, Roode is no stranger to disappointment. Last year, after two straight years as ECC champ, he lost his title to East Lyme’s Andy King. “I played against him this year in the ECC finals and beat him. It was sweet revenge,” he said.
He took the state Class S crown this year for the first time, after three years of falling short. That title, he said, “means so much more to me.
“Even though I was only losing one match a year, I don’t think I was ready to take on bigger competition [until this year],” he said. “Now I’m more focused. I understand what it means to be a champion.”
He cites his tennis heroes, Wimbledon favorites Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Maria Sharopova of Russia, as examples of players who “never quit. Even when they’re down, they come back,” he said.
That’s how Roode himself approaches the game. “I never think a match is over until you shake hands at the net,” he said.
Griswold High School boys’ tennis player Brandon Roode
Three-time ECC boys’ singles champion
State Class S tournament boys’ singles champion 2011
Roode captured his state Class S crown by defeating Old Lyme’s Morgan White 6-3, 6-3. In State Open competition, Roode defeated Bacon Academy’s Zachary Bussiere 6-2, 7-6 in the quarterfinals, but lost in the semifinals June 12 to Bradley Orban of Foran High School 6-2, 6-3.