Fort Mill Times

Little man, big racket

Nation Ford's Madison Ott is the Falcons' number one tennis player and is only in the seventh-grade. He had regularly beaten other schools number one players and has only been playing a short time.
Nation Ford's Madison Ott is the Falcons' number one tennis player and is only in the seventh-grade. He had regularly beaten other schools number one players and has only been playing a short time.

Standing 5'-1" and weighing 85 pounds, Madison Ott isn't going to strike fear into anyone.

Off the court, that is.

Ott, a seventh-grader at Fort Mill Middle, may be small in stature, but with a tennis racket in his hands, he is as dangerous as a Jedi knight.

At 13 years-old, Ott is the number one player on the Nation Ford High tennis team. He has only been playing tennis for three years and the scary thing is, he is still learning.

"Even being a seventh grader, he has all the tools," said Nation Ford head coach Matt Rohring.

Rohring, who played tennis in high school and in college at Robert Morris University, has coached and been around the game most of his life, said he was amazed at how fundamentally sound Ott is.

"I was impressed when I first saw him," Rohring said. "But I didn't know he was that good."

Ott got started playing tennis by just messing around in his garage one day. He started hitting tennis balls and liked the feel of it. He decided he would give the sport a try and the rest is history. Not only has Ott given the sport a try, but he has practiced his craft year-round, nearly everyday, with the help of his personal coach, Eric Martin, who he has been with the past year.

"I like being able to play every point," Ott said. "I like playing because you can rely on yourself."

Ott already has the goal of playing in college. His hope is either at Clemson University or Wofford College.

With that goal in mind, Ott said he knew one day he would be playing high school tennis, but even surprised himself.

"I thought one day I would be on a high school team, but didn't think I would be the number one player," he said. "I didn't think I would make it this early."

Rohring said his game stands out and surprises a lot of people. When Ott is matched up against other teams' number one players, the mismatch looks obvious. Many of Ott's opponents are seniors and have been playing high school tennis for at least four years. All of them are taller and outweigh him and a lot of the times, they are much stronger.

And because of those factors, they think they are better than Ott, that they have an advantage on him. Until they step on the court.

"They get overconfident and then when I start hitting with them they get intimidated," Ott said.

Take for example his match last week; Ott played York's number one, Chris Suggs. Suggs had Ott down 3-0 in the first set. Ott ended up winning in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.

But there are some opponents who have had Ott's number. Fort Mill's William Reigel beat Ott 6-0, 6-0 in their first meeting. They will meet again April 22.

Ott himself knows that he will get better with time, and playing more experience players like Reigel will only help him.

"Playing upperclassmen, he sees where he is at," Rohring said.

Ott also has a state championship in mind. Rohring said that the older he gets, his chances will improve.

"He improves dramatically everyday," Rohring said. "To be playing just three years and have these skills is amazing."

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