Mark D. Motz reports:
Forget the song; believe the hype.
Ursuline Academy tennis player Mehvish Safdar is a star. She won the Division I state doubles title with her older sister as a freshman. She won a state singles title as a sophomore. She’s undefeated for the Lions so far in her senior season and was a LaRosa’s athlete of the week.
No surprise to Ursuline coach Joe Hartkemeyer.
“The skills that she has, she has pretty much any shot that you want,” he said. “She really doesn’t have a weakness. I think (playing against her) it’s one of those things where you might not find a weakness. You have to look for a pattern where you might cross her up, but that’s going to be difficult.
“You’re not playing a person, you’re playing a style of play. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net. She can come to the net. She can be aggressive. She can be a grinder. She can beat you with big shots from the baseline. Her style is really an all-court game.
“She doesn’t overlook anybody and plays each point. Every opportunity she has to be out there is an opportunity to get better. Her effort is always all-out.”
Safdar, a Mason resident, said hearing her coach say she had no weakness was both a surprise, a compliment and a goal all rolled into one.
“I try not to expose my weaknesses, but definitely I’ve been trying to create an all-court game,” she said. “I’ve been playing a lot. Just getting repetitions. It’s more of just a mental thing and that’s part of what I want to improve, too.”
Safdar began playing tennis at age 4, tagging along with her older sisters to their practices and matches. She began playing USTA tournaments at age 6.
“I got lucky and got a head start,” she said. “It was a great experience playing that young.”
For all the individual elements of the game, Hartkemeyer said he appreciates Safdar’s dedication to the team.
“There’s no better opportunity to go out with a jersey with your school’s name on the front and represent that and be part of a team,” he said. “A lot of times players with her ability don’t even play high school tennis and it can be hard to buy into the team game, but not for her.”
Safdar said that stems from her first trip to the state team tournament in Columbus as a freshman.
“Going up as a team, being with the girls, it really brought a whole concept of a team sport home for me,” she said. “I’ve always liked that. It’s an adjustment from the off season, but it also gets you ready for college, because it’s such a team game there.”
Safdar has yet to decide where she will play tennis in college, but Big 10 and ACC schools have expressed interest in her services. For now, she enjoys being a captain and sharing her talent and experience.
“I’m one of those fiery people,” she said. “For me, when I’m pumping my fist or cheering for a teammate, that’s what I like. We all kind of motivate each other and balance off one another’s play. I had great seniors when I was an underclassmen and now I want to pay that forward to the younger players.”
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