South Charlotte

Mavericks tennis player knows how to hit winners

Joey Hatala is a standout at Marvin Ridge. He's a straight-A student. He may be even better on the tennis court.

"Joey has played really well for us," head coach Vijay Shankar said. "He is a really competitive kid and doesn't like to lose."

Hatala, a junior, is 13-0 this season and has a career singles record of 47-4. Last year he and Andrew Treske won the state doubles title and finished 21-0. Hatala was 14-1 in doubles as a freshman and is 10-1 this season.

Overall, he is 92-6 in his high school career and 48-2 since last year. He is ranked among the top 20 in the state and the top 450 in the nation.

Not bad for a kid who has played tennis for only four years.

"I am really proud of my state ranking, it means a lot to me," Hatala said. "I play at tournaments year round and I see the guys ranked around me. It is good to see how I stack up to my competition."

After attending a Family Circle Cup match in Charleston with his family, Hatala was drawn to tennis and has been hooked ever since.

"I just really liked the sport and it fit my strengths," he said. "I am quick and that helps me get to a lot of balls and fight for every point.

"I try to keep my opponents off balance and try to mix it up and hit all of the shots that I like to hit. I know that if I can keep people out of rhythm then I have a great chance."

Growing up, Hatala played lacrosse, soccer, basketball and baseball. He said his favorite part of tennis is the team aspect.

"I never get nervous in high school matches," he said. "It is great to have my teammates there cheering me on. When I am playing for my team I am always really focused and want to win it for them."

He takes his academic performance equally seriously.

"I have always known that school comes first," he said. "My parents taught me that and it is something that has always stuck with me."

Colleges are taking notice. Among schools interested are Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Lafayette, Villanova and Lehigh.

"There are a couple of schools that I have in mind," Hatala said. "All of the schools I am considering are great academic schools and they would all be really fun to play at. It would be really cool to play in college and something I have decided that I really want to do."

Hatala said he will make a decision soon on where he wants to go, but for now he is focused on being the best teammate he can and moving up the state and national ranks.

He said he is still working on his confidence when he is tested in tournaments against more experienced players.

"When I am on my game and playing with confidence, everything follows suit and works well," he said. "If I start to play tentative then I get a little nervous. I am working on that."

There is not much else wrong with his game.

"Joey is really well-rounded. He is a complete player, he is comfortable coming to the net and just as good staying back on the baseline," Shankar said.

"The thing with him is there are really no holes in his game. He doesn't have a huge game, a big dominating serve or huge forehand. He doesn't have that unstoppable weapon, but he is really good because he doesn't have any holes to attack either. He is a complete player."