A Journey to Becoming the Best

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Updated: February 8, 2016

“I love competing. I love the feeling that you get right before you go out to the match – the adrenaline. It’s just the competition that I live for.”

These are the words of Cornell freshman tennis star David Volfson, the statement of a true driven competitor. “It’s something that I’ve always had. Since I was a kid, I loved to play tournaments and fight for every point,” he said.

Tennis has been a focus of Volfson’s life for as long as he can remember. “I started playing when I was four. My dad played a bit in college. He played back in Latvia, and when I was four, he asked me if I wanted to play tennis, so I gave it a shot, and I just fell in love with the sport,” described Volfson. “Two years later, I was like six years old, and I decided I wanted to be the best tennis player in the world.”

He has yet to meet this mark, but Volfson is already built up quite the resume considering he’s only a freshman in college. In addition to winning three youth national championships in his home country of Canada, Volfson recently cracked the top 1,000 of the international men’s rankings and competed in several noteworthy tournaments around the world.

“Winning my first Under 12 National Championship when I was 10 years old was one of my first big tournaments that I won. I’ll always remember that moment,” Volfson explained. “I won some national championships after that in older age groups. Going back, I think playing in the Rogers Cup at 16 years old was one of my biggest experiences and challenges yet.” In the Rogers Cup, he faced Yen-Hsun Lu, who once made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. “That guy was like 30th in the world at one point,” Volfson said. “It was a tough match. He’s a great player, but it was a great experience.”

Volfson gave detailed accounts of a number of his matches, including his favorite contest of his young career, in which his top 500 ranked opponent had a match point in the second set, however, Volfson fought back to win. This situation is exactly what he lives for and what drives him to compete everyday on the court.

It’s palpable from just a few minutes chatting with Volfson how much he enjoys both playing and talking about tennis. “I really love the sport. I think it’s just a great sport because there are so many different elements involved like speed, power, consistency, and different strategies,” justified Volfson. “It’s kind of like a chess game on the court.”

Naturally, Volfson is also a fan of watching the ATP tour and all the major tournaments. “I like to look up to a couple of players and learn from their different games, like Nishikori, Wawrinka, and Djokovic,” Volfson explained. “You can’t really copy one game, but you can look at what other people do well. Those are the guys who I like to look up to and watch play, and the combination of their games is what I feel like are most similar to my game.”

Despite Volfson’s passion for tennis, he almost ended up pursuing a different sport. “I played in a pretty high level soccer league up until I was 10 or 11 years old, and then I had to stop just to focus on tennis. I loved to play tennis, but I also loved to play soccer, and then I realized I can’t do both, and I was better at tennis, so I decided to continue with tennis,” Volfson stated. “But I still love playing soccer. I’ll always dribble around with the tennis ball.”

In addition to tennis, academics are a top priority for Volfson, just like every other student at this school. “I chose Cornell because, first of all, it was close to home, and, second of all, the education program here is great. I want to study in the business program in AEM,” mentioned Volfson. “The tennis program is also very good. The head coach, he’s very ambitious, and he kind of sets a mindset for the whole team. He’s trying to create an atmosphere where players can train and study well in school and then hopefully pursue a tennis career after. I just thought that Cornell was the best place for me to pursue a tennis career as well as get a world-class education.”

With a focus on both academics and athletics, Volfson’s schedule can get pretty packed on weekdays. “I usually practice before and after classes,” Volfson said. “For example, on Wednesdays, I’ll wake up around 6:00 AM, practice from 7:00 to 9:00, get to class by 9:05, go to class up until 4:10 PM, then practice from 4:30 to 6:30, and then go to the gym for an hour.”

Volfson, however, is used to a busy schedule considering that he traveled internationally often throughout high school. He also believes that Cornell creates a comfortable environment where students can get support for both schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

“My favorite thing about Cornell has to be the people and the professors. The whole environment is great,” Volfson described. “Everyone is really friendly. The professors are always willing to help. Two professors are actually a part of the tennis community, and they really help out the guys on the team. They’re very friendly and help with anything I need off the court.”

With Cornell’s tennis season underway, Volfson said he still hasn’t fully gotten the feel of college tennis yet, but he looks forward to the team’s hard work paying off. He also still has ambitions of his own. “For me personally, I’m just trying to work really hard to improve my game, and I want to play on the ATP circuit after college,” Volfson declared. “That’s the goal.”

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