Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn email@example.com
tennis with a, well, wannabe
it's like not to play but to captain
This week, we have another installment in my Q&A series. Our
guest? Junior varsity men's tennis captain Dana Pasternak '03, a
history major from New Canaan, Connecticut. Although he's captain
of the squad, he's only played in one match this year, and has yet
to defeat a single teammate during practice. In other words, he
is a perfect fit for the P-Nut Gallery.
P-Nut: Give me a brief overview of your Princeton tennis career.
Dana: After high school I was pretty down on tennis, so I didn't
bother trying out for the varsity team or even playing JV tennis
freshman year. I decided to come back and give it a shot during
my sophomore spring, after not picking up a racquet for a couple
years. Coach [Claude] Frazer was nice enough to let me try out,
even though the JV tennis year really starts in the fall.
I actually played pretty well even after all the time off, mostly
at 4 and 5 singles sophomore year. Bu then my game just went downhill.
Last year I was reduced to a reserve role, and this year I'm pretty
much a cheerleader/spiritual leader. I'm still hoping to turn things
around for the spring, though. I guess you could say I'm looking
for one last hurrah.
P-Nut: What's that hurrah? Playing two matches?
Dana: I'd settle for a couple forehand winners and maybe an ace.
P-Nut: That's some way to cap a career. Were your high school
days a little more glamorous?
Dana: Yeah, I had a pretty solid high school career. My first
couple of years I played behind a few guys who went on to play college
tennis, and then senior year I played #1 singles. I made the all-county
team twice, but my best accomplishments were team victories
we won states three out of four years, including my senior year
when I played #1.
P-Nut: What's it like being JV? Are there guys who could be playing
at the varsity level? I remember your T-shirts from last year said
"For the chicks and the drugs." Do you get no respect?
Dana: Basically, the JV tennis lifestyle is a glamorous one
it's hard to stay out of the spotlight on campus. Actually, that's
not true. Most people don't really know I even play JV tennis, much
less that I'm captain. They always look kind of surprised when I
P-Nut: Kind of surprised like, "Hey, this short European
guy is captain of a JV team?" Or kind of surprised like, "There's
a JV tennis team?"
Dana: (Laughs) I'd say both. I have deceptive athleticism. It
definitely takes people by surprise. The reaction is generally one
P-Nut: So the only objective for a JV tennis player is to... get
off the team? Is everyone trying to make the step up to varsity?
Dana: No, most of the guys just enjoy the opportunity to play
competitively again, even if it's only 10 or 12 matches a year.
Usually there are only three or four guys who are really training
hard and hoping to make the varsity team next year.
P-Nut: And of those three or four, how many make the cut?
Dana: Often none of them make it, but sometimes one guy will make
it through tryouts. A lot of it just depends on whether the varsity
team needs anybody else some years it seems like more of
P-Nut: Was there one athlete who you tried to model yourself after?
Vlade Divac has similar heritage, but I can't see you idolizing
him. He also plays a different sport, I guess. Anyway, who was your
Dana: For the record, Nate, I'm a quarter Ukrainian, not Serbian.
Growing up, I was always a huge Jim Courier fan. Courier played
with a lot of passion, which is the way I like to play. I also modeled
my game after him, what with the big western inside-out forehand
and the rather ineffective backhand.
P-Nut: Divac's Yugoslavian, anyways.
P-Nut: He played on the Yugoslavian team at the World Championships
this summer! Hold on, aren't they the same thing? I'm an English
Dana: Serbia was part of Yugoslavia. "Yugoslavian" is
a not an ethnic background, for the record.
P-Nut: That big guy can sure pass out of the post, though. Anyway,
as captain what are some of your favorite ways of cheering the team
Dana: Basically I like to be loud and to incorporate some humor
into my cheering. If I'm not going to be playing, I might as well
try to spice up the match however I can. I like to think I'm the
seventh man out there.
P-Nut: Aren't there only two guys on the court in tennis?
Dana: Yes, but there are six guys in a team's lineup.
Dana: Unless you have different players playing singles and doubles,
but that's another story.
P-Nut: Right. According to the rankings, though, you're actually
like the team's 13th man, right?
Dana: Ouch, that's a low blow Nate. (Laughs) Judging by this fall,
I'm probably 13 on a good day.
P-Nut: Is it true you once flexed at a referee and asked, "Do
you guys allow guns on the court, cause I'm packing heat?"
Dana: I'll neither confirm nor deny. In juniors, though, my two
patented shots were the scissor-kick forehand and the "tweener,"
which is a shot you hit between your legs with your back to the
P-Nut: I've heard your trash talk is fearsome too.
Dana: Nah, I'd have to say that's more of a basketball thing.
Tennis is more of a gentleman's sport, so it's hard to really toss
any good smack around. I only reserve that for the kids I really,
P-Nut: Do you plan on continuing your tennis career once you leave
Dana: As much as I'd love to play a couple tournaments on the
satellite circuit, I'm pretty sure the only league that's going
to want me is the Fairfield County Men's Club "B" League
P-Nut: You think those manicured lawns have a 13th spot waiting
Dana: Good Lord, I would hope I could play a little higher than
#13 in the "B" League. Most of those guys have had multiple
bypass surgeries. Oops, maybe I shouldn't say that half of
them are Princeton alums.
P-Nut: Those are the half that'll be reading this.
You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU