For The Tribune

Hao Li played both singles and doubles matches during his tennis career at Seymour High School, but his favorite times were when he played with a partner.

“I like the aspects of both, but I think I enjoy doubles more,” Li said. “I like the teamwork, and doubles has more strategy. You have different formations and everything.”

He was in the Owls’ varsity lineup at No. 2 doubles this fall, and his partner in most of the matches was fellow senior Sam Voss.

Li is right-handed, but he said he played on the left side of the court.

“(Voss’) forehand was a little better, but my backhand was a little better than his, so I liked playing on the left side,” Li said.

During matches, Li said communication is a big part of having success in doubles.

“It is very important because you have to know what your partner is doing,” he said. “Both of you have to cover different balls and make sure you communicate on what formation you’re going in and make sure both of you know what parts of the court to play.

“I think I was best at the baseline because I was more comfortable with my groundstrokes. My net game was a little weaker than my baseline, so my partner usually played at the net.”

During warm-ups, Li focused on his opponent rather than critiquing himself.

“Warm-ups were very important,” Li said. “I tried to figure out their weakness by hitting it to their outsides, to both their forehand and backhand, and tried to see which side they were more comfortable with, and I would try to see how strong their serves were. I wanted to see if they had a flat serve, a spinning serve or a slice.

“I wanted to see how well they did at the net, so if they were good at the net I would just try to lob them during the matches.”

Li said getting off to a good start gave him a big lift mentally.

“Winning the first set was really important,” he said. “The matches I won, I won all the first sets because it set the tone for the whole match. It gives you confidence that you can bring into the second set.”

With unpredictable weather during the fall, Li had to adjust to the conditions on the court.

“During sectionals, I remember especially against Brownstown, it was really windy, and Brad (Emerson, head coach) told us to be aware, and during our serves to toss the ball up a couple of times before you actually serve it to get used to the wind blowing so we could make sure we hit the ball in the right spot,” Li said.”

“If I were hitting against the wind, Brad told us not to slice it too often because if we’re slicing into the wind the ball would just hang in the air and it wouldn’t go very far. If the wind was behind us we had to focus on putting good back-spin on the ball.”

Li said he enjoyed multiple facets of playing tennis at Seymour.

“I made a lot of new friends on the tennis team,” Li said. “A lot of my friends play tennis, so it made the practices more fun. I really enjoyed the away matches. The bus rides were really fun.”

At a glance

Parents: Qing Li, Xiaoying Li

Sibling: Connie

Sports: Tennis, four years

Athletics highlights: Helped Owls win 2015 sectional

Organizations: National Honor Society

Plans after high school: Attend college, study computer science

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite TV show: “Blue Mountain State”

Favorite musician: Kid Cudi

Favorite movie: “Happy Gilmore”

Favorite team: New York Giants


Q: What was it like playing home matches?

A: “I liked the home matches because it was nice having people from Seymour cheering you on. It helped a lot having people watching you.”

Q: What is your career highlight playing tennis?

A: “Winning sectional was very exciting. I was glad that I was able to be part of the team and win the first sectional in nine years. Being able to do it as a senior made it a lot more amazing because we never had the opportunity to win it in my high school years except this one.”

Q: Have you enjoyed your time at SHS?

A: “I really like being part of Seymour High School and the SHS tennis team. I learned a lot of stuff from playing tennis and being a student here. I made a lot of new friends on the tennis team.”

Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.