A year ago, IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program student Devin Britton earned all of his high school credits and decided to enroll early at Ole Miss. In the spring of 2009, Britton then ran through the entire field to become the NCAA Division I men's singles champion.
Fast forward to the present, and IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program student Harry Fowler hopes to follow in Britton's successful footsteps.
Fowler has verbally committed to Ole Miss and hopes to enroll for the spring 2010 semester. Fowler shared some thoughts on going to college, life at IMG Academy and rooming with some of the best junior tennis players in the world.
Harry Fowler on...
...enrolling at the Academy: I was 15 years old and my mom helped me move in for a couple days then she went back home to Texas. At first, it was kind of like having a sleepover every day. It was different. But you learn to be responsible pretty fast to keep pace. It's definitely very different knowing you're jumping into the place that has probably the highest concentration of great tennis players anywhere. It's pretty tough, but you learn to push each other and thrive off each other's drive. Everyone has the same goals and the same dreams.
I've made tons of lifelong friends. On the tennis court, I've become a lot stronger. I'm really grateful for the support given to me.
It's a really great experience. You get to learn other languages. Be a part of other cultures. Especially when you're here to train for a specific sport, being around athletes in different sports just shows you that you're not the only one working hard, and you make friends in all of the sports.
...training with the world's top juniors: We're kind of our own little group - me, Jordan (Cox), Yuki (Bhambri) and Ryan (Harrison). We're all pretty much best friends. Over the last few years, we've really tried to push each other. It's been really great. We want each other to succeed. We consider ourselves a team, even though it's an individual sport - the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program team. If we're at tournaments, we train together. Unless we play each other, then it's full speed ahead. As soon as the match ends, we're friends again.
...when the group isn't traveling to tournaments: I love football. Sometimes we'll get a game going if a bunch of us have an off weekend. I'm a fast guy. I play a little wide receiver and running back. The best of us? Probably Ryan. He's a pretty talented quarterback. He's got a good arm.
...choosing the college route, instead of turning pro like Jordan, Ryan and Yuki: I feel like my game is close to theirs and that I can compete with anybody. I think I need to become a little more mentally strong. And I'm not a massive guy who weighs 200 pounds and serves 130 miles per hour. I think a year or two of maturing will really help me out. I don't want to throw myself out there and lose confidence playing against guys who are 25 or 26 and trying to put food on the table. I have no doubts that I can get to that level, though.
...choosing Ole Miss: Devin comforted me by saying that he definitely made the right choice in going to school there. Plus, look at the success he's had. It really helped develop his game. I'm really excited to play for a team. Becoming a college athlete, especially at somewhere like Ole Miss, will be really fun. Ole Miss is one of the top schools in the country for match attendance, so everyone really supports the program.
...individual goals for his freshman year: I want to be able to go in and at least make the NCAAs. Since I missed all of the individual tournaments in the fall, I'll go into it without a ranking. My main goal, though, is to become an All-American as a freshman. That's what I really want, and I think I have the ability to do it.
...the mental side of tennis: You don't only have one opponent, you have two - yourself and the other guy. No one is there to stop you when you get upset or frustrated. It's all up to you. You've got to love to fight and find ways to beat people. This year, in the first round of the Orange Bowl, it was about 90 or 95 degrees. I lost the first set 7-6. That's the toughest thing for a tennis player because you realize you've got another couple hours and two more sets to go if you want to win that match. I've really worked hard here trying to improve my mental skills. I just took it point by point and took the match in the third.
It's not only staying positive, it's about taking my time. With my personality, I rush a lot. Just staying more aware of what I'm doing on the court and monitoring my breathing to help focus.
...wearing an ATP pro's shirts: I was hitting with Tommy Haas one morning. I get some stuff from K-Swiss - the same company that sponsors him. His shirts, though, has this custom patch from a German bank sponsor or something that nobody else in the world has. I guess K-Swiss mixed up an order and sent me a bunch of his custom shirts. I just randomly threw one on that morning, and he looked at me and said, "Where did you get that shirt? Did you take that from me?" It caught me totally off guard.
...the most talented players that he's seen: I think with just God-given talent, either Kei (Nishikori) or Filip (Krajinovic). Kei... I've just never seen anyone as fast as him. He's so fast with his hands. Filip is just Filip. He's just blessed with a gift. He's got so many skills. Hitting with him, you can just see him crushing the ball. It's fun to room with a guy who's one of the best in the world at his age. For two years, it was me, Jordan and Filip rooming together. Now, we're all going our separate ways.
...the best thing tennis has brought him: Definitely seeing the world. I've been to 4 of the 7 continents. I've been pretty blessed to play the sport that I love all over the world.