It is not just the 10-minute English presentation on existential literature for Alex Kim. It is also the daily tennis practices and workouts. It is not just the delirious trudge to the second floor of Tolentine for that 8:00 a.m. English class. It is also the short notice bus rides around the northeast to go play matches scheduled the day of.
As Villanova’s top tennis player, Kim lives with the challenge of balancing a full plate of responsibilities. But the North Carolina native embraces this aspect of Villanova life, and it was one of the reasons he traded Cary, NC for four years on the Main Line.
“My recruiting story was different from most players,” Kim said, but the community he felt when on Villanova’s campus made his decision easy despite interest in Davidson College, which is closer to home.
After four years at Panther Creek High School, the number two tennis player in North Carolina packed his bags for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
And Kim has not turned back.
As a freshman playing the number five position, he racked up 14 wins in a season eventually cut short. Looking back on the season now, Kim feels like he was hitting a stride toward the end of the season. This year, after seeing four senior teammates graduate and a promotion to the number one singles position, Kim has been forced to make adjustments.
“It’s definitely been very interesting,” Kim said, understating some of the challenges he and the team have faced this campaign.
As a sophomore playing at the top of the lineup, Kim has struggled to match the same singles performance from last season.
His attitude has never wavered though.
Kim has been working closely with Coach Brad Adams on his new role in the team, emphasizing growth over a win or loss.
“[I should] just take the time to gain insight and information,” Kim said. “I am feeling like I am getting better through each match.’
He looks for inspiration from professional tennis players such as Australian Nick Kyrgios. The big-serving, heavy hitter is widely considered one of the most fun players to watch in the professional game. Kim feels like his strokes and strengths mirror that of Kyrgios, with the caveat that the sophomore keeps his attitude in check better than that of the controversial Australian.
But Kim cannot just focus on his individual performance.
With many graduated seniors, Kim has been thrust into the spotlight for a Villanova team in search of a leader. After becoming the top player on the team this season, Kim has embraced the leadership role for the team. His focus for this season has been to foster team chemistry for the Villanova squad, a key to success in any sport.
One stretch of matches proved difficult but also impactful for the Wildcats when the team faced four different opponents over five days. The grueling gauntlet of competition proved tiring, Kim admitted, but the sophomore found the time spent among teammates beneficial.
“So many matches with traveling really helps the team chemistry,” Kim said.
With a volatile season in which matches can be cut or added from the schedule at a moment’s notice, racking up matches has sometimes superseded the comfort and rest of players. The pandemic has changed the lives of student-athletes, but Kim has found some bright spots in the shift to virtual life. The online format of classes has made his life much easier, as the convenience of Zoom helped balance the burden of COVID-19 restrictions on the court.
In the morsels of time Kim finds in between practices and classes, he likes to destress with friends whether that be sharing a meal or playing Xbox. Relaxation is a vital counterbalance to such a hectic life, and Kim is constantly tinkering with his schedule to maintain an equilibrium.
As Villanova’s men’s tennis plays a season like no other, Kim faces the challenge of strengthening bonds with teammates while also sharpening his game against the top players from opposing teams and balancing a rigorous course load.
But this is nothing new for the sophomore.
Kim adjusted and thrived in high school and as a freshman at Villanova. He changed his routine and schedule when a global pandemic froze the world.
Whatever the challenges Kim and the tennis team may face, the Wildcats are equipped with a team and a leader prepared for anything that comes next, both on and off the court.