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Men’s tennis: Despite lifetime of success, Mikael Torpegaard isn’t done

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Ohio State junior Mikael Torpegaard competes against Texas A&M on Feb. 19, 2016. Torpegaard is the reigning NCAA Singles champion. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

It’s not every day a tennis phenom walks through the doors of Ohio State.

Then again, junior Mikael Torpegaard isn’t your everyday tennis player.

When he was six years old, Torpegaard began playing tennis at a club close to home in his native country of Denmark.

Shortly thereafter, he fell in love with the sport, eventually finding his way to OSU – a decision he’s never second-guessed.

“It’s a great thing to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Torpegaard said. “I love playing for OSU and I enjoy the team aspect of tennis. Usually you play for yourself and only yourself when you’re on the professional tour. There’s nobody to share the victories or take the losses with. So, being on a team like this, that’s a huge thing for me as a Buckeye.”

Although Torpegaard is just 22 years old, he’s already enjoyed major success in his young career. In 2016 alone, Torpegaard won the ATP Challenger title at the Columbus Challenger, was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and finished as the runner-up in the NCAA Singles Championship.

Torpegaard is currently the second-ranked player in men’s college tennis after starting off the season at No. 1.

Despite all that he’s accomplished, he said none of his experiences and feats can top the time he played against tennis legend, 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal, in the 2015 Davis Cup. Torpegaard lost in straight sets.

“Playing against Nadal is probably at the top of the list,” Torpegaard said. “I was shaking and gripping my racket so hard every time I had to return the ball. I cramped in my hands after three sets. It was definitely huge for me and an unbelievable experience.”

Through his run at the NCAA title, Torpegaard became known for his lethal backhand. It’s a strength that can only be attributed to his surroundings growing up, he said.

“The backhand, or the serve, are my biggest strengths,” he said. “Unlike most players, they have their forehand — that’s their biggest weapon. I grew up playing on an extremely fast surface, which messed up my forehand technique a little bit, but also gave me an advantage with my backhand.”

Through the first month of this season, Torpegaard and the Buckeyes have been nothing short of dominant. They have steamrolled opponents on their way to a spotless 7-0 record.

Remaining focused and prepared while winning games in such convincing fashion is key, coach Ty Tucker said.

“You keep the focus on getting a little bit better every day,” Tucker said. “There are guys on this team that’ve been to the Final Four, there are guys that’ve been to the Elite Eight, and there are some guys on this team that won the 2014 National Indoor Championship. They know that there are a lot of good teams and that you’ve got to be ready for everybody.”

With roughly three months to go before the start of the NCAA Championships, that focus will be constantly tested. The third-ranked Buckeyes are scheduled to face off against six teams currently in the top 25, including No. 5 Georgia, No. 9 Northwestern, and No. 18 Michigan.

In Torpegaard’s eyes, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is, OSU needs to go out and perform on a consistent basis.

“The goal is to be the best individually and team-wise, and to win a national title because I really think that we can win one,” Torpegaard said. “I expect to always be a top-5 team, and to beat some of these really good teams coming up.”

The Buckeyes will attempt to preserve their undefeated record at home versus No. 15 Kentucky on Friday.

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