Hard work, leadership lifted Hatala this spring
by Mike Shaw
After spending a few minutes with Joey Hatala, people often feel as if they’ve gained a new, trustworthy friend.
In many cases, they have.
Hatala, a rising senior at Marvin Ridge High School, is smart, funny and kind. He’s also pretty good on the tennis court.
He was especially strong during the 2011 season, when he posted a combined record of 25-3 – 14-1 in singles play and 11-2 in doubles. He also was more than deserving of Union County Weekly’s 2011 Boys Tennis Player of the Year award.
“Joey was conference player of the year,” Marvin Ridge coach Vijay Shankar said. “He won the conference tournament, and he made it to the state semifinals for individual singles play. He accomplished quite a bit.”
That’s been the case throughout Hatala’s high school career. His three-year record now stands at 66-5, and during his sophomore season, he won a Class 3A state doubles championship.
But many people who know Hatala say he’s an even better person. He’s especially humble, wasting little time to credit his teammates for helping him to compete at such a high level.
“I really like playing for a team,” Hatala said. “When I’m out there at a tournament by myself, it’s tough to get motivated. But when you have teammates, you’re out there working so hard just for them.”
But Hatala’s success goes far beyond the encouragement of his teammates. Much of what he does is a direct result of hard work and determination.
“Joey puts in a lot of work on the court,” Shankar said. “He works hard in practice. In addition, he trains with a number of high-level players in the area, so he’s constantly pushing himself to get better. In addition, he’s regularly playing tournaments on the weekend.”
Hatala’s success is especially impressive because he’s a relative newcomer to the sport. He began playing tennis competitively when he was in the eighth grade, so he feels a need to practice and play as often as he can to continue his speedy climb among the state’s elite.
“When I started the season off, I built my game on speed,” he said. “As the season went on, and I tried to beat better players, I had to play more aggressive. Instead of just practicing it, I began to implement it into matches. I’m trying to play a bigger game.”
He also works hard at improving himself in other facets, such as team leadership. Hatala recently attended a summer leadership seminar at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“Being the No. 1 player on our team, he always sets the tone for practice,” Shankar said. “Everyone fell in line and followed his example.”
Heading into the individual state tournament this year, Hatala used experience to his advantage.
“At states, everybody is really good, and it’s hard to get there,” Hatala said. “At that point, I had a little bit of experience on my side from last year. It just comes down to who is more mentally tough when you’re trying to close it out. Who’s going to have the confidence that late in the match?”
Although his individual successes have been plentiful, Hatala looks to next season with big expectations for his team.
“I really want to win the dual-team state title, No. 1,” he said. “Secondly, I want to win the individual singles state title.
“I really want to get the dual-team, though.”