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USTA Southwest  |  January 12, 2018

"Sportsmanship is like the 'Golden Rule' to me. "


Good sports in tennis aren’t always the ones holding the trophies at the ends of tournaments. But to us here at the USTA Southwest, they are the players we tend to recognize the most as winners, no matter the score.

Luckily for Abraham Yohannes, he collects both his fair share of sportsmanship and tournament-winning trophies in tennis, and that’s a perfect time to pick him for our All About Tennis Junior Profile this month.

After all, Yohannes, of Albuquerque (and who turns 16 on Friday), is our USTA Southwest Junior Sportsmanship Award winner.

He will be honored tomorrow evening along with other section award winners from this past year during our USTA Southwest Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet.

Besides his excellent sportsmanship and temperament on court in his more than 550 junior USTA matches played, Yohannes is most notably known for his smooth strokes and his can’t miss afro hairdo.

He finished runner-up last year in the New Mexico High School state singles championships as a sophomore for Albuquerque Academy high school, and currently sits as the No. ADVERTISEMENT 7 ranked junior in Boys’ 16s in the Southwest.   

We recently caught up with this quality young man to learn how it all got started, what his future plans are with tennis, and how he deals with tennis ball fuzz in his hair.  


USTASW: So how did you get started in tennis?

AY: My dad introduced me to tennis when I was around 4 or 5. We would always have weekend practices with family friends and it would be a get together for all of us so it was more like a play date than practice. After our designated hour of practice, we would play on the kids’ playground adjacent to the tennis courts and that would be our fitness.


USTASW: What has been your best tournament experience since you started competing?

AY: The 2015 Intersectionals was my best tournament experience because that was the first time I traveled to a tournament (To Auburn, Alabama) without either of my parents.  In addition, the weather there was very humid and I discovered that I actually like playing in that kind of weather.


USTASW: What was your very first USTA tournament? How old were you? How did you feel approaching the match?

AY:  My first tournament was local USTA level 6 held at Jerry Cline Tennis Center here in Albuquerque. I was six years old at that time and was extremely nervous. A total newbie. I didn’t know how good my opponent would be, and felt that I was going to lose before even looking at him.


USTASW: What is your ultimate goal with tennis?

AY: My ultimate goal would be to play at a Division I NCAA school. While on that team I would like to play as the third seed or higher.


USTASW: What do you most like to do when you're not playing tennis?

AY: I enjoy watching movies during the weekends. I also like playing soccer with my friends at school during my free time. I also like to read books after finishing my homework. Sometimes I like driving my car around Albuquerque because I want to explore the places I’ve never been to.


USTASW: Congrats on being this year's Junior Sportsmanship Award winner. What is your view of sportsmanship and the importance of it in tennis and how do you try to be a good sport every match out?
AY: I think that sportsmanship is applicable to everything you do. I don't think it is confined to the tennis court. The concept of sportsmanship is like the 'Golden Rule' to me. Treat others the way you would like to be treated, and if they don't treat you well, still treat them as an equal. Anyone that tries to be unsportsmanlike is usually frowned upon by their peers and nobody enjoys the experience. I try to be a good sport every time I come out because it is easier to play a match where everyone enjoys why they are there.


USTASW: Who is your favorite tennis professional?  What would you do if you were to meet them?

AY: My favorite professional is Roger Federer. If I were to meet him I would ask him to sign my phone and ask if I could get a picture with him. I would also ask to go get lunch and ask about what he has done to keep his level of play at such a high level for so long.


USTASW: How often do you play tennis each week and what do you do to try to keep your practices fun?

AY: I play around 12-13 hours a week. During a week, I play 2 or 3 matches with high school coaches, coaches at Tennis Club of Albuquerque (TCA) and Lobo Club, and some of my peers at school. The rest of the time I go to Lobo Performance Tennis Academy after school and practice there. Something that I do to keep practices fun are to try to hit some ridiculous angles during some points to see what the outcome is and try to improve on the next angle I try to hit.


USTASW: Who or what has been your biggest role model or help in learning tennis?

AY: my best role model in learning tennis has been my dad. He has always helped me in demanding the best from me every time I step onto a tennis court. Also, he has never lacked in enthusiasm for the game, even when I wasn’t doing so well in tournaments.


USTASW: What's been your best or favorite tennis moment so far in your young career?

AY: My favorite tennis moment was when I placed second in the TCA Men’s Open. That was the best result in a men’s open event that I’ve ever had, and it was exciting for me to play at that high of a level.


USTASW: Have you started looking at colleges?  If so, where are you interested in going and what would you like to study?
AY: I haven’t actually started looking at colleges, but I would like to study airplanes and how to make more efficient airplanes.


USTASW: Do you have any odd quirks or rituals on the court, like bouncing a ball five times before a serve or not walking on the lines?

AY: I always bounce the ball three times and take a deep breath before I serve.

USTASW: Alright, so we saved the need-to-know question for last. How long have you had that stylish afro? Is it your good luck charm and…do you ever get tennis ball fuzz in it?
AY: I’ve had the ‘fro for about six years now and yes it is a good luck charm. I do get fuzz in my hair. It’s so commonplace that I don’t even get surprised when someone else finds it in there now.


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