Obenaus Gets A Passing Grade

March 1, 2010

By Jerome Johnson

Tobi Obenaus has been one of the most tenacious and vocal players on the Washington tennis team from day one. Often over his first two seasons, he native of Waidhofen, Austria would be the last man standing in a dual match, battling as hard on the last point as the first in marathon matches. Now in his junior year, Obenaus is trying to get the positive result without pushing himself to the limit, and his 9-1 mark in dual play is the best on the team. The accounting major is finding that less is sometimes more, with eight of his nine wins coming in straight sets. Still, the 2009 Pac-10 All-Academic First Team member continues to push himself as hard as ever in the classroom.

Obenaus grew up in an environment surrounded by athletics. His parents were both successful athletes in the sports they played; his mom Eva was a gymnast and his dad Wolfgang played soccer. His older brother Philipp was the Austrian national tennis champion in the U14 singles and doubles. 'We always competed. I remember playing my brother in tennis and crying when I lost, or to my dad. It took me awhile until I beat both of them. It was great. I was always the most competitive. I am an ambitious guy. I always wanted to beat them,' says Obenaus.

The ambition, intelligence and focus translated to a scholarship to the University of Washington. Christoph Palmanshofer, who lettered for UW from 2002-05 and has returned this year as a volunteer assistant, hailed from Austria as well and was was Obenaus's best friend in Austria on the tennis court. When Palmanshofer knew Obenaus was graduating, he encouraged him to consider Washington. Obenaus took the advice to heart, and committed to the Huskies having never made a visit to Seattle.

His enthusiasm and volume on the court makes it hard to picture Obenaus quietly studying in the corner of a library, but Obenaus has always been a great student, adept at balancing sports and studies. He graduated high school with a 3.9 cumulative grade point average, especially impressive due to the number of hours he missed in school because of tennis in high school.

'(Senior) year I almost missed three-hundred hours worth of class. They told [me] that I had to get good grades to miss that much. I still keep that attitude going and I take care of school,' says Obenaus.

Obenaus is hardly alone at the top of the class among the Husky men's squad. A conference-leading eight Huskies were named Pac-10 All-Academic in 2009. Still, accounting is a challenging major by any standards and requires focus to be successful. 'Other students might do something else before schoolwork, (watch a movie then do the school work) but for me it is the other way around. It is hard for me to enjoy playing Nintendo or watching a movie if I know I still have things to do for school,' says Obenaus.

On the court he has demonstrated a confidence which has helped him overcome adversity. Obenaus had the biggest win of the 2009 season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against a Texas Tech squad that looked on its way to a one-sided win.

'We were down 3-0 and I was facing match point, but because we'd had such a good season until that match, I didn't want to end like that. I felt like if I lose this point we lose 4-0 and the whole season is a disappointment. I know how much it hurts to lose in the first round like we did my freshman year. The second set I got much better into the match. The guy was still making a lot of shots but I kept on fighting. (Associate Head Coach Chris Russell) helped me a lot with keeping my confidence and keeping my head up,' says Obenaus.

Obenaus trailed Milos Kustudja 6-1, 5-3, and Kustudja was serving up 40-15 before amazingly the match reversed course.

'Suddenly he got a little nervous for the clinching points. They already made the final clap and I somehow turned it around and then I was in the zone. I think back to it like watching a movie. It was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget in my life,' says Obenaus.

The success from the Texas Tech match gave him the confidence he has shown in his play this season. 'During the summer I played in a lot of tournaments in Austria. I practiced hard. I feel much more comfortable on the court, more confident,' Obenaus says. 'I know what I can do. That is part of the main reason why I am playing so much better now. I believe in myself and I don't put so much pressure on myself.'

A once-in-a-lifetime comeback is great, but since it came at the end of his sophomore year, Obenaus has been able to build on it. There are many more opportunities for cinematic moments, hopefully in two more trips to the NCAA tournament. It takes a special type of athlete to not give in when down as far as Obenaus was last year at NCAAs, and a special type of student to maintain a GPA above a 3.9 at the University of Washington. Obenaus happens to be both.

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