Brayden Schnur spends the moments before a match alone with his thoughts.
It is not because he is frustrated with his play. In the past three weeks, the North Carolina tennis freshman has beaten four of the top 100 singles players in the nation – including a win in straight sets against Illinois’ fourth-ranked Jared Hiltzik and a victory in UNC’s 4-1 win against Louisville on Wednesday.
It is not because he is not close with his teammates. Schnur said that the bond between the team is one of the reasons he has gotten off to such a fast start.
“It’s pretty amazing how close all of us are,” he said.
“We all share a great amount of passion, energy and excitement, and we’re always pushing each other.”
It is not even because Schnur does not have a doubles partner to prepare with.
Schnur and sophomore Brett Clark are the No. 1 doubles pair for the North Carolina men’s tennis team.
According to Schnur, the reason he chooses to be by himself before his matches is solely to focus on what is directly ahead of him.
“I always try to take each match and each point one at a time,” Schnur said. “After I warm up, I like to just put my headphones in and focus only on my next opponent.”
“No looking forward, no looking back.”
It is that focus and intensity that has already led Schnur to 12 wins on the season, the two most recent coming in the No. 28 Tar Heels’ 4-1 win Wednesday against No. 49 Louisville.
After senior Nelson Vick and junior Esben Hess-Olesen beat Louisville’s (5-2) Alex Gornet and Luis Elizondo to tie the doubles matches at one a piece, the spotlight fell on Clark and Schnur to grab the doubles point for the Tar Heels (7-1).
After trailing early, the pair fought back to tie the match at five games apiece and ultimately won the tiebreaker to secure the doubles point for North Carolina.
Singles play started off slow for the Tar Heels, as several players found themselves down a few points early.
After Johan Skattum fell to the Cardinals’ Michael Lippens in straight sets, Louisville tied the match at one point a piece.
And once again, Schnur found himself in a place to regain the lead for UNC.
Before he could blink, however, Schnur was down 0-3 against Louisville’s Sebastian Stiefelmeyer.
“I got off to a pretty slow start,” Schnur said. “But I eventually just settled down and got into a rhythm.”
The next time Stiefelmeyer blinked, he found himself on the other side of a solid run, with Schnur winning the match handily in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1.
Coach Sam Paul commended Schnur for his resiliency against Stiefelmeyer, saying that it was a great performance against an underrated team’s top player.
“It’s hard to go into someone else’s home court and come away with a win,” said Paul. “The crowd was very tough, and I thought Brayden handled it well.”
Even after Schnur’s comeback win, the Tar Heels still had some work to do to win their seventh match of the season.
Vick followed his doubles win with a 6-3, 6-3 victory against the Cardinals’ Elizondo to put the Tar Heels up 3-1.
And freshman Ronnie Schneider, the No. 17 singles player in the nation, took down Louisville’s Albert Wagner in straight sets to secure the match for UNC.
As far as expectations for the rest of the season, Schnur said that the sky is the limit for himself as well as the team.
“We can be very dangerous if we continue to work as hard as we have,” Schnur said.
“I knew I could do great things when I came to college, and now I believe that we as a team can accomplish even greater things.”
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