Darren Mast has been selected as our Athlete of the Month for October. Mast is a sophomore from Lancaster County, Pa. majoring in physical therapy. For the men’s tennis team, Mast has been on fire in singles action since the start of October. Since the match against Shepherd University, Mast has lost only one set and he has picked up five consecutive victories after a tough start to the year. In addition, four of his five victories came in straight sets and three of his wins occurred on the same weekend. I caught up with Mast to ask him some questions about how he got involved with tennis and his expectations for the spring season.
Q: How did you first get involved in tennis?
A: I first got into tennis the day I was born. My mother eats, sleeps, and breathes tennis. She also works for Billie Jean King, (if you don’t know who she is, Google her) so she was a big influence. My brother is also seven years older than me and he was always a top 70 player in the country when I was growing up, so I got to travel to all of his events and watch the best juniors in the country.
Q: Do you have any professional favorites like Federer or Nadal?
A: My professional favorites are the retired Andre Agassi, I grew up watching him all the time and his autobiography OPEN is my favorite book. I can relate to many of the feelings he talks about in the book. My current favorite player is Novak Djokovic. I love his attitude and his arrogance on the court, and I play similar to him.
Q: How does it feel to not lose a singles match during the course of an entire month?
A: Not losing a singles match for a month is a great feeling. Sometimes too great because it can take you away from reality. It takes you away from reality by making you think you’re the best in the world and that you don’t need to work on anything, when that is actually completely false. But, being a sophomore, I have learned how to handle this and stay focused on what I need to work on even when I am playing this well.
Q: After a slow start to the season, the team rebounded with wins against Shepherd and Rider. What has been key to this turnaround?
A: The slow start of the season was based on a couple things. Most of the teams we played early on were some of the best teams we play, which makes it tougher on us. But, we also had one of our top players out on injury, Austin Blake. And another key player for us, Peter Saloman, was struggling with a terrible knee injury. But all these matches were tournament style matches, which I think we do better as a team in dual matches, because it is easier to cheer our teammates on and there’s a lot more energy. Shepard and Rider were both dual matches, and we got Austin Blake back for those which really helped us. So I’d say the biggest turnaround was the energy level of everyone there.
Q: What do you hope to achieve as an athlete here at the Mount?
A: Being an athlete at the mount, my ultimate goal is to win the conference tournament while I’m here. Even though tennis is an individual sport, college tennis is a team. And there is nothing more that myself and our team wants than to win the conference tournament, get the trophy and ring, and go to the NCAA tournament. I also have personal goals like becoming the best player I can be by the end of my 4 years, and winning every match I play. But the conference title would be the greatest.