It was quiet on the court during Mark Wallner’s high school matches. Now, in his first year of college tennis, that’s no longer the case.
“There was no one really cheering for me [in high school],” Wallner said. “Here, everyone pushes me, which is happening a lot, to fight and come back if I’m losing.”
Wallner, a freshman from Germany, played at IMG Academy, a Florida boarding school known for its athletic programs, before coming to Temple. He was ranked the 16th-best prospect in Florida from the class of 2017 by Tennis Recruiting Network, a site that covers amateur tennis.
Coach Steve Mauro discovered Wallner through connections he had at IMG. Wallner is not the only player from IMG whom Mauro has coached.
Vineet Naran, a New Jersey native and 2017 philosophy alumnus, also attended IMG. Naran had a 32-27 singles record in his four seasons with the Owls. Mauro said IMG’s tennis program is well-run and has a reputation for producing hard-working players.
“They take their tennis very seriously,” Mauro said. “They train two or three hours a day. The kids that I’ve had from IMG have been good kids, and they work hard.”
Wallner said coming to IMG for high school gave him an advantage in his game. When he played in Germany, Wallner competed on clay instead of a hard court. When he first played in the United States, Wallner noticed that he played better on hard court, which is the standard in the U.S., unlike European countries.
Wallner’s original plan was to return to Germany after graduating from IMG. But he stayed in the U.S. because he liked the combination of playing tennis and going to school, and the college recruiting options in the U.S. are better than in Germany, Wallner said.
Wallner has a 3-5 singles record this season. He and his doubles partner, sophomore Juan Araoz, have a 5-2 record. Their only losses came against junior Matt Galush and sophomore Gabriel Nemeth of Penn State and seniors Chris Fletcher and Christos Hadjigeorgiou of George Washington University.
Araoz is also new to the team this season after transferring from Hampton University. He believes Wallner has the foundational skills to achieve Division I success.
“He’s a really good player,” Araoz said. “Of course, we all need to work on some stuff. I think he needs to work on his reaction, speed and conditioning the most. He’s going to improve a lot.”
Mauro said Wallner will improve if he works on his consistency and ability to finish volleys.
“I’m still trying to adjust [my game],” Wallner said. “It’s way different [in college]. There’s no deuce points. I’m still trying to adjust to find out about the best ways to play without deuce points.”
“He’s definitely getting better,” Mauro said. “We’re working on a lot of different things. He needs to mature as a player. Overall, his work ethic is great. He will continue to improve.”