Rallying back

Freshman tennis player experiences setbacks after injuries

Freshmen+Evelyn+Tsai+serves+the+ball+over+the+net.+Tsai+has+gone+through+different+injuries%2C+including+Osgood-Schlatter+disease+and+shin+splints+which+have+benched+her+for+multiple+seasons.+

Andrew Hager

Freshmen Evelyn Tsai serves the ball over the net. Tsai has gone through different injuries, including Osgood-Schlatter disease and shin splints which have benched her for multiple seasons.

As she finished the second week of her tennis camp, freshman Evelyn Tsai felt a familiar pain in her shin that she immediately recognized as shin splints, an injury she had gotten twice before. After healing from four previous injuries, Evelyn had been on track to being number one on the varsity girls tennis team. Getting shin splints for the third time a week before tryouts benched her for yet another season. Evelyn felt frustrated that she wouldn’t be able to play as much as she wanted after working so hard on improving. She wouldn’t be able to try out for the tennis team, play tournaments, or run.

“When I wasn’t injured and I was playing tournaments, sometimes I would go to tournaments that were a couple hours away,” Evelyn said. “We would leave school early to drive and get to a hotel. Although I’m injured right now, I have definitely improved so that my current level of play is a lot better than my level of play from when I was playing tournaments.”

Evelyn started playing tennis when she was eight years old, beginning with tournaments in the Future Stars Red Ball division. As she started to improve and play seriously at the age of 12, she began going out of town for tournaments in the Super Championship division and taking time out of school to play.

“She had just won a tournament and moved up to the next highest level of play,” Evelyn’s father, Charles Tsai said. “She went from Champ to Super at 12. And so she had that injury, and that took her out for about nine months, and she had to go to physical therapy,” 

Evelyn got injured for the first time when she was 12. She was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, an overuse injury, in her left knee. Her inability to play during her recovery knocked her down to the championship division. Then in January 2019, she fractured her right knee while skiing and got a bone bruise to go with it.

“Since she can’t run with her injuries, she can’t play tournaments,” Evelyn’s brother Marcus Tsai said. “Playing tournaments is a big part of her improvement. She can still play recreationally, but that is still limited because she can’t move too quickly.”

Playing in tournaments would have given her the opportunity to rank at a state level, putting her in the top 300 players in Texas. This would also be a gateway to even higher levels, playing in national tournaments and beyond.

“It [her past with injuries] definitely has a big effect on my tennis career, given that I’ve been injured multiple times,” Evelyn said. “Being injured keeps me from practicing how I want and getting experience by playing matches.”

This November, Evelyn will turn 15. Since she will be in the bottom 40 percent of her age division, because of being unable to play any tournaments for so long, she will age down and be demoted to the championship division.

“It was really discouraging, but she just kept pushing on and working really hard, and she’s really looking forward to getting back into it,” Charles said.

With two years of consecutive injuries, Evelyn’s playing and improvement have both been greatly hindered. However, she looks forward to being able to play again next season.

“I want to continue playing tournaments and hopefully stay a Super Champ throughout high school,” Evelyn said.