COLUMBUS, Ohio – Steven Williams is not afraid to speak his mind; on or off the court.
If you go to an Ohio State men’s tennis match, the chances of hearing this sophomore’s voice echoing off the walls of The Ohio State University Varsity Indoor Tennis Center is highly possible. Whether it is showing his emotion during his matches or cheering on his teammates from the seats, Williams is one of the vocal leaders on the 2009-10 squad. The native of Manlius, N.Y., said it is just a part of where he comes from.
“I love being from New York, where people yell and scream about their sports teams,” Williams said. “But I think it is my personality too. I care about everything I’m doing and that affects me a lot. That’s who I am. I put a lot of emotion towards everything I do.”
He is a vocal guy from New York, but that’s just one detail of Williams. He became one of the first tennis players from his hometown to develop into a Division I collegiate tennis player.
“I started tennis when I was three-years-old,” Williams said. “I am still a member of the same club and I practice there when I go home.”
Williams said when he first starting playing tennis competitively, not that many people from where he was from knew the system of signing up for sectional, state-wide or even national events. With the support of his mother, Linda, he was able to begin his long journey of tennis.
“It was really my mom and I learning step-by-step how to sign up for these tournaments, what to play or not to play, and the general overview of competitive tennis,” Williams said. “This was because not that many tennis players were developing in the smaller cities in New York like Buffalo, Rochester or Syracuse.”
Williams began playing a lot of sectional tournaments at the age of 12. By 14, Williams said he started traveling across the country, from Florida to Arizona.
“The tennis really picked up when I started getting older,” Williams said.
In 2008, he peaked at No. 34 in the USTA’s Under-18 singles rankings and was a high school All-American at Manlius Pebble, captaining the team at No. 1 singles during his senior season. He advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2008 New York State High School Championships before transitioning to Ohio State at the collegiate level last season.
“I always wanted to play college tennis since I was 13-years-old,” Williams said. “I think I bring a lot of energy and emotion to my matches. I feel like one of my strengths is with my game, mentally. How I play the point is one of the biggest weapons I have in my game.”
As a freshman, Williams compiled a 5-2 overall record in singles through the course of the year. He finished last fall with an impressive 10-2 record, going 1-1 against opponents ranked nationally.
“I played a lot of matches in the fall and it was good because it helped my confidence,” Williams said. “I played in the summer and practiced a lot for the three tournaments I participated in. I thought I played well against some of the best talent out there. I just need to keep working on my game.”
Williams, born and developed in the East Coast, brings a fierce attitude to the game of tennis for the Buckeyes, who will look to capture its fifth-consecutive Big Ten Championship this year. To make it to Columbus, Williams said he is proud of where he comes from, where youth tennis continues to grow each season.
“There are several players from the ages of 12-14 right now, who are coming up from where I was from,” Williams said. “I guess you could say they are following in my footsteps. They are doing it better than I did and it’s great.”