By Dalton Ray–
Three years ago, Aleksandra Mally stepped on to U of L’s campus as a five-star tennis recruit from New York. TennisRecruiting.net’s No. 22 overall player, Mally was expected to soften the blow of Rebecca Shine and Julia Fellerhoff leaving the women’s tennis program. Mally didn’t get her chance to shine, though.
Playing in the fall of her freshman year, Mally defeated the No. 82 player in the ITA rankings. Towards the end of the fall, Mally started to feel pain in her right arm. When she was evaluated, Mally found out she had a fracture in her humerus, ending her season.
By the end of the school year, Mally recovered. She continued her offseason training and started playing in tournaments again. The fracture from the previous season was going to be labeled a hiccup in Mally’s career as she looks to move past her season-ending injury.
Developing tendonitis in her elbow, discomfort once again found its way to Mally. After the tendonitis got worse, Mally had her elbow looked at. The results showed that she tore her lateral epicondyle, otherwise known as tennis elbow.
Missing her second straight season, Mally had surgery at the end of last season. Not playing over the summer, she gradually started to get back into the tennis mindset.
With injuries constantly setting Mally back, the mental toll started to add up.
“Obviously, it’s really hard because you start to train and feel better again. Then a little thing happens and that little thing snowballs into another big injury. So it puts you down mentally but I just stayed positive and thought about when I’m going to be healthy,” Mally said.
Due to her injuries, Mally’s perspective of the game changed.
“I could only watch during the first two years, so I learned a lot from simply doing that. I got to watch my teammates and see what they did right, wrong and see how points develop,” Mally said.
Filled with nervousness and excitement in her first game back, the redshirt sophomore said she could have played better, but it just happy to be playing again.
Now back on the court, Mally is right at home. Picking up where she left off, Mally is 4-0 in singles. She has sealed all four of her wins in two sets, including the 7-6, 6-4 match clincher against Western Kentucky.
After sitting out for so long, game styles can change for players. For Mally, she says she game has changed for the better.
“I’m trying to to be more aggressive and transition into the net more. I’m working on a bigger serve to get more free points. Overall I’m more aggressive than before the injuries,” Mally said.
Coach Mark Beckham said that their relationship has helped expand her new style of play.
“Even though (Mally) hasn’t been able to play, her and I still talked all the time. We’ve still been developing her game, she’s much more aggressive playing now than she was before. It’s all about the transition for her,” Beckham said.
Beckham knows the kind of player Mally is but doesn’t want her to rush the process.
“(Mally) is going to be very good. We just need her to be patient. She needs to be in a marathon with this situation. Each week that goes by she’s getting better and better. Once we get her back to the level she was at, we can then start to work on things to improve her game even more. She’s right where we want her to be,” Beckham said.
Mally is now getting back into the flow. No longer a member of the injured reserve club, she’s able to play her game. Instead of focusing on rehab, Mally can shift her full energy on training, game preparation and improving her game.
Forced away from the game she loves, Mally said her time away made her grow more passionate.
“I couldn’t play so I just really wanted to get back out. I couldn’t wait until I was healthy so I could go out and play for Louisville,” Mally said.
If Mally is able to become the kind of player she was before the injuries, she could help lead the Cardinals to their most successful season in the ACC.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal