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Frank maintains focus, rebounds from injury

ITA Rookie of the Year continues to impress in sophomore campaign

Sophomore Mitchell Frank arrived in Charlottesville in 2011 as the No. 2 tennis recruit in the nation and immediately began making noise. He won the ITA All-American Singles title in October and just one month later took the ITA National Indoor Singles as well, becoming only the fourth player ever to do so.

When the spring season arrived, he had earned himself the No. 1 spot in the ITA rankings and continued to roll through a stellar rookie year. Frank handled opponents from across the country with ease — including a win against then-Southern California senior Daniel Nguyen in the 2012 NCAA Championship, one of the Cavaliers’ two points in the match — and compiled a 38-2 record on the year. Unsurprisingly, the accolades rolled in: Frank was named ITA Rookie of the Year and selected to the ITA and USTA Collegiate All-Star Teams, as well as the ITA All-American Team. A summer of training and pro events was all that stood between Frank and a dominant fall season, until one stroke of misfortune threw everything off track.

In July, Frank was training back in College Park, Md. He had just finished an exercise on a mat and was rolling over to stand up when, in a bizarre twist of fate, Frank’s foot caught on the mat and his left knee twisted, tearing the meniscus in the process.

“It was one of those injuries where you could tell it wasn’t just a strain,” Frank said, “All the guys up there were trying to keep me calm but I was obviously pretty distraught at first. I knew it was not going to be good, and then I found out I had to have surgery.”

After a phenomenal freshman year of college tennis, the injury came at what seemed like the worst possible time. Instead of building on his success and defending his fall titles, he spent six months rehabbing his knee and supporting his teammates from the sideline. Still, Frank believes that the time off may not have been entirely detrimental.

“I was obviously pretty upset and disappointed, but at the same time I had been playing a lot of tennis and I had been under a lot of stress the whole year,” Frank said, “In a way it almost ended up being a nice break, and I was able to get back to doing things how I wanted to do them.”

Virginia coach Brian Boland agreed, highlighting Frank’s unwavering commitment to his sport and his team throughout his injury.

“Adversity strikes all of us and we’re defined by how well we handle that, and nobody handled it better than Mitchell,” Boland said. “He was extremely dedicated to doing things the right way, to getting back to competing full strength as soon as possible. But he really focused on doing a great job in other aspects of his life — including his academics — and he did a great job staying involved with the team and supporting his fellow teammates during fall matches and individual tournaments.”

Frank was cleared to play Dec. 31, and Jan. 25 he finally returned to the courts. In the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, he topped North Florida senior Pedro Davisson, 6-1, 6-0, and didn’t drop a match en route to clinching the team’s fifth National Team Indoor title.

“I was pretty nervous,” Frank said of his first matches this season. “Obviously I was very, very happy to get back out there, but it was tough — and it still is tough — because I don’t have the same number of matches that most players have. At the same time I think I’ve been getting more confident with every match I get and I’ve been able to piece things together and improve on my old form.”

Since his return, Frank has only lost once in singles. He has defeated eight nationally-ranked opponents, and after going undefeated during a grueling spring break schedule, he was named ACC Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

“He’s worked really hard on finding that balance between defending his court, taking over the point, [and] becoming more offensive,” Boland said “I think he works just as hard as he did in the past, but I believe he’s learned to manage his body much better and to make sure that he’s careful with his approach to training.”

The numbers might suggest that he has basically picked up where he left off — a 6-0, 6-0 shutout of Duke freshman Michael Redlicki comes to mind — but Frank insists he still has work to do.

“Physically I feel pretty much 100 percent, but there are still a couple kinks I can work on,” Frank said.

Of course, Frank is not called “The Machine” for nothing. After watching Frank’s phenomenal debut, his determination throughout rehab and his performance since returning to the court, Boland expects nothing but tremendous success in Frank’s future.

“Mitchell’s a winner,” Boland said, “He has been from the day I met him and he will continue to be one.”


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