When Irvin Yi was a freshman at Gig Harbor High School, he played on the junior varsity tennis team. He had played for fun when he was younger, but never took the sport too seriously.
He quickly found out he could be pretty good, if he wanted to.
So he started taking some lessons and playing more. Fast forward a couple years: Now as a junior, Yi is the team’s No. 1 singles player and has posted a 5-2 record this season, with his only losses coming against Bellarmine and Capital’s No. 1, Ranjan Sharangoani, who took second in the Class 3A state tournament a year ago.
“Last year, I improved a lot,” Yi said. “It was just hitting the ball more, more repetition and going to lessons. Sometimes, when I don’t hit the ball, my rhythm gets off and it makes it difficult.”
Yi plays with his father in the offseason at the high school tennis courts. The first time he played Sharangoani during his sophomore year, he only won one game. This year, he lost 6-4, 6-2. Progress, undoubtedly.
“Compared to how I’ve played against some of the tougher players in the past, I think I’ve improved a lot,” Yi said. “If I can play well against (Sharangoani), I know relatively how good I am. It definitely helps a lot.”
First-year tennis coach Billy Landram likes what he sees from his junior No. 1.
“He’s a really good player,” Landram said. “He hits with heavy topspin, he’s really consistent. He’s pretty tall and lanky, has a good serve. He’s really solid for us at the first spot.”
The next step? Being able to take over against the best players in the state.
“I think the next step for him is just being able to attack kids,” Landram said. “(Sharangoani) is extremely consistent. So for (Yi), it’s just being able to put balls away versus just continually rallying with people. If he can hang with (Sharangoani), I think he can beat almost anybody. I wouldn’t put any limits on him.”
Yi made it to the state singles tournament as a sophomore, but didn’t place. He’s hoping to change that this time around.
“I just want to improve every day,” Yi said. “Hopefully, that’ll take me to state. One of my biggest goals is to place at state this year. I just have to hit consistently and stay aggressive.”