A lifelong city-dweller, Jesse Sprinkel does not physically attend Minneapolis South, but the sophomore is a staunch supporter of urban tennis.
Playing what is long thought of as a country-club sport, Sprinkel, who is home-schooled, is the latest in a line of fine tennis players at South, an inner-city school with a history of giving traditional powers a run for their money.
“I’ve never thought about playing tennis anywhere else,” Sprinkel said. “I grew up playing at Powderhorn Park, which is just a few blocks away from my house. A lot of good tennis players grew up playing there.”
After a victory over Zack Ekstein of Eagan last week, Sprinkel, a sophomore, is No. 2 in state coaches association Class 2A rankings.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Sprinkel last week and found that tennis is an equal opportunity pursuit.
Q: Let’s start small. How has the season progressed so far?
A: Pretty good, actually. We’ve played a lot of our matches indoors. The school has put up the money to do that, so we’ve been able to get quite a few matches in.
Q: Do you prefer to play indoors or outdoors?
A: I prefer outdoors. Most of the national tournaments I play in are outdoors, so being able to play outdoors is essential if you want to improve.
Q: With four-time Class 2A state champion Dusty Boyer graduated, the boys’ field this year is wide open. That has to feel promising.
A: Without Dusty, it opens up the field a lot more. There are five or six guys with a real good chance to win. And we all hit together, so we know each other pretty well.
Q: What are your tennis goals for this year?
A: My focus is on the team first, but after that’s done, who knows what can happen?
Q: What is the strongest part of your game?
A: My backhand. It’s just very strong. It comes naturally. In the past, most would say that their forehand is their best, but now a lot of the top players have better backhands.
Q: What is the national perspective on Minnesota players?
A: Well, the perception is that we’re not quite up there with the players from Florida and all of those southern states who can play outdoors year-round.
Q: Is that motivation to prove yourself?
A: It is. It does give me something to prove after playing indoors for six or seven months.
Q: How many doors has tennis opened for you?
A: It has given me so many opportunities I might never have had. I’ve traveled to a bunch of different places for tournaments, like Florida, Texas, North Carolina. It’s broadened my perspective.
Q: How important is high school tennis in the larger scheme of your life?
A: It’s pretty important. I know a lot of the top guys look at it like a little bit of a break, but I think it give us good matches against a lot of different people. It give a whole different perspective.
Q: The best thing about tennis?
A: You’re out there by yourself and it all comes down to you. You make all the errors, you hit all the winners. You can’t hide.
Q: Advice for the younger player?
A: Make sure you’re prepared for everything before you go out on the court. Make sure you have everything in place so you don’t have to worry.