Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Brookwood's Drew Wendel has been selected as the Daily Post's boys tennis Player of the Year. Wendel is a two-time state champion, three-time region champion and will be attending The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the Fall.
To some, the 2013 high school tennis season was a breakout year for Drew Wendel.
But the way the Brookwood senior sees it, this spring's campaign was simply the season he's been waiting his whole career for.
After all, this was finally the year he would finally get a chance to make his mark at the top of the Broncos' lineup.
"Playing No. 1 singles was definitely something I was looking forward to," the 2013 Daily Post Boys Player of the Year said. "It was my senior year. I was working for a college scholarship. And after losing at No. 3 singles against Alpharetta (in the second round of last year's Class AAAAA state playoffs), it was a huge motivation for me.
"That was the deciding match (of a 3-2 loss). After winning state (as a sophomore and coming up short last year, I knew what it felt like to win and lose. I made sure the team wanted it, too."
Both Wendel, who is headed to Tennessee-Chattanooga to play in college, and the Broncos had plenty of desire this spring.
Both made it happen as Brookwood took home the Class AAAAAA state championship with a 3-0 sweep of North Cobb last month -- the program's second state title in the last three years and seventh overall in its history.
Wendel did his part by posting a 21-4 record at the top of the lineup, usually setting the tone with the team's initial victory during its 23-3 season.
"His preparation for his senior year was outstanding," first-year Brookwood coach Bill Shields said. "The way he approached the game, he was a more complete tennis player. He played at a different level.
"(As a junior last year), he saw people ahead of him (graduate), and he knew someone had to step forward. ... It's an awesome responsibility for anyone, but ... he was at a place where he said to himself, 'Here's a place where I can help the team.'"
Wendel's journey to put him in such a place began during his USTA tournament schedule last summer.
While part of that process involved simple improvements in strength and conditioning and a few mechanical adjustments to his game, the biggest change he made was in his mental approach to tennis.
"I trained almost every day during the summer," Wendel recalled. "I was hitting the ball, getting bigger and getting stronger. But mainly, I was just working on learning how to win matches."
That knowledge was put to a very stern early test in Brookwood's season opener against Peachtree Ridge, when Wendel was matched up against Lions senior and two-time Super Six singles player Alex Makarenko.
Wendel passed the test with a hard-fought win in three sets to not only set the tone for the Broncos' win that day, but also his whole season.
"When I look at the first match of the year against Peachtree Ridge and the way he played ... it let us know he was prepared and ready to go," Shields said. "His confidence grew as the year went on, and he's a very confident young man."
Wendel also looks at that initial match as a turning point of sorts for his season as he took his game to the next level.
"I had a strong first set," Wendel recalled. "Then I had sort of a slumber party in the second set, but game back in the third set. That match definitely got the ball rolling."