By ASHLEY ANDERSON
Almost three decades after his dad, Tim, made a name for himself at the University of Louisville, Alex Gornet has risen to stardom as a fresh-faced 18-year-old on UofL’s tennis team.
Beginning early at age 4, Alex first picked up a tennis racket upon encouragement from Tim. “I remember he got us all rackets – my older brother and little brother – and (my dad’s) the one that first introduced us to the game,” Alex recalled.
At St. Xavier High School, Alex built an outstanding resume as a four-time All-State selection. He was named state doubles champion in 2009 and reached the singles finals of the state high school championship in 2011 and 2012. While destined for a successful tennis career like that of his father’s, Alex wasn’t necessarily eager to follow in his dad’s path to UofL. “Originally, I didn’t want to go anywhere close to home,” Alex admitted.
On a campus visit at UofL last August, he realized staying close to home wasn’t such a bad move after all. “There’s just a lot of stuff going on here, and I think the local community, too, a lot of people care, and a lot of people are putting back into it,” he explained. “And, also my family – It’s nice I get to do what I want down here, kind of have my own life, but if I want to go home or if they want to come watch me play, it’s nice to have them around still.”
Since starting his collegiate tennis career, the freshman has soared to the top on a team typically ranked nationally in the Top 25 each year. In the fall, he posted a 7-4 record in singles and reached the “A” division finals of the Louisville Fall Invitational. He and Albert Wagner make up Louisville’s top doubles tandem.
Being a star athlete isn’t all fun and games, though. Alex isn’t just a jock; he’s a 4.0 student majoring in biochemistry, which requires plenty of study time. “You have so much on your plate all the time with athletics and then academics, so one part of your life is going to have to be a little bit smaller, and usually it’s your social life,” Alex said. “Because if you don’t have the other two, then obviously you’re not playing. If you’re not keeping your grades up, then Coach (Rex Ecarma) is mad.”
Ecarma sang the praises of both Alex and Alex’s dad, who played doubles with Ecarma when the two attended UofL in the ’80s. “I think with Alex, he doesn’t act like your normal freshman,” Ecarma said. “He’s got his stuff together. He’s got his academics together, he’s organized. … To find an 18-year-old that is that purposeful, you’ve got something special.”
Ecarma might have started a father/son rivalry when answering the question as to which Gornet was the better tennis player. “(Tim’s) somebody that always tries hard,” Ecarma said of the manager of operations at UofL Speed School’s Rapid Prototyping Center. “And then Alex is just a junior version of him. But Alex is a little bit better of a tennis player. His dad’s good, but I think Alex is a little bit better, a little bit more complete.”
Alex does give his dad plenty of credit. He and Tim traveled together the last couple of years to Alex’s matches, where Tim would impart his expert advice. “One thing he would always say to me is ‘Two smiles and two times a net,’ because there’s no reason to be mad while I’m playing,” Alex said. “So if I’m having a good time out there, I’m enjoying myself, I’m playing my game, then usually good things are going to happen.”
Alex is also grateful to his former coaches at St. X, Kerry Lancaster and Joe Kroh, for laying the foundation for the success he’s now experiencing at UofL and teaching him the value of teamwork. “When we play for St. X it’s very serious, and the coaches really, really push you,” Alex said. “So I think that gave me a good foundation for what I wanted to do in college, especially the team aspect.”
For now Alex is focused on the UofL tennis team making a run in the upcoming Big East tournament. He’s also dedicated to keeping up his perfect grades. A freshman phenom, no doubt, the local assures other up-and-coming athletes can achieve his same level of success. All they need do is put in the hard work, remain dedicated and be willing to go above and beyond to achieve the ultimate goal. “I think you really have to know what you want to do and you have to have that specific plan,” Alex asserted. “You have to be willing to go out there and, even if it’s just 10 extra minutes of hitting, or if you want to do a little bit of running, the people that put in the extra are usually the ones that are going to make it and pass up the other people.”
The Louisville men’s tennis team will head to the Big East Championship tournament Thursday, April 18, in South Bend, Ind. For more information, visit www.gocards.com.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune