For the Love of Tennis

April 19, 2006

Most collegiate athletes with decorated high school careers are anxious to make an immediate impact on their school and team. Most learn patience when they arrive on the campus. Better players, systems to adjust to, all stand in the way as hurdles to jump. When senior Dean Wallace entered with soon-to-be All-Americans Patrick Briaud and Conor Niland, more hurdles were set for Wallace to cross.

A product of the Philippines' capital of Manila, Wallace broke into the Cal lineup as a freshman in the 2001-02 season.

'At the beginning it was really difficult I came in with a really strong team,' Wallace said 'So I never got action for three years. It's taken a lot of patients including a year of taking time off away from the team, which really was probably one of the low points at Cal. But it was also a huge point, a period of awakening for me. I figured out why I was playing tennis.'

Prior to the beginning of his junior season, Wallace decided to take a year off because 'I hadn't played for two and a half years in a dual match. I was feeling useless and was wondering why I even was playing.'

The year gave Wallace a chance to understand the importance of patience and the fun of a athletic adventure in college. 'I certainly missed it,' Wallace said. 'I maybe watched one match during that time off. I lived with a bunch of tennis guys so I talked to them about it once and a while. But I truly missed it. I didn't play for five months. I didn't touch a racket. When I came back my first practice was absolutely horrible, and I just laughed about it. It makes it fun now and I go out there and have fun.'

Once he returned he teamed with fellow senior Lennart Maack on the doubles court during their junior season. The two posted eight wins between the second and third positions, and they advanced to the Pac-10 doubles championship, falling to USC's Jeff Kazarian and Kase Van't Hof, 9-8 (3).

'Last year was a good stepping stone,' Wallace said. 'I played some good doubles. It was a good confidence booster. I truly believed I belong on the court like everyone else here. Before that I never really gave myself the credit.'

In his final season, Wallace boasts a 7-2 record in the sixth position singles and is teamed against with Maack in doubles.

'Tennis for me from now on, it's not going to be telling anyone how I'm doing every day and I'm not going to track the normal things, like I track on you lost 6-2; you won 6-2,' Wallace said. 'Concentrate on the mental game. It's definitely paid off. I've been happier in the past year-and-a-half then I have in the past five years. I just have to thank coach (Peter Wright) for being patient with me. There have been a lot of mental breakdowns. You really learn how to deal with being a player, all the losses and wins.

'These past two years have been really special. I've felt like a contributing player, and I get as much respect as the No. 1 player, maybe because I'm older. It's kind of nice. They look up to me and ask me stuff. We got to go to Mexico and Puerto Rico and played against all the best players. People really give you respect. I'm really greatful for that.'

One word with Dean Wallace...

Tell me the first thing that comes to your mind, Dean...Tennis?
Wallace: Racket.
Coach Wright?
Wallace: W-R-I-G-H-T, in big bold letters.
A tennis ball?
Wallace: Neon.
Wallace: California.
Tennis courts?
Wallace: Washington I really don't know why!
Wallace: My apartment looking out to the bay.

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