A senior on the men’s tennis team, Ben Shapiro is successful both on and off the court. He’s won his last four singles and doubles matches against the likes of Nazareth, RIT, St. Lawrence, and Union College. Shapiro has also earned the title of Scholar Athlete from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA)—a title he has held since joining the team as a freshman.
How were you introduced to tennis, and at what point did you start playing competitively?
I was introduced to the sport by my dad when I was five during a vacation in Florida. I played one time and was hooked, and I kept hitting against the wall near the courts for the rest of the trip. I played my first competitive tournament probably when I was around 10 or 11, and I really haven’t stopped since.
How do you adapt (tactically and mentally) playing from a singles match to a doubles match?
Because doubles is only one set to eight games, you have to come out with a ton of energy right away, because you can’t afford a slow start. I try and come into doubles very fired up, and constantly cheer on my partner and teammates on adjacent courts. Afterwards, I try to forget about the doubles, regardless of how it went, because I know that if I continue to be so fired up, I’ll run out of emotional energy before singles ends. The biggest change is just that I try to stay more even-keeled and calm in singles.
Within the four years that you’ve played for the University, is there a defining moment or memorable experience that you can recall?
During my sophomore year, we beat NYU at home for the first time in several years. NYU had been having a great season, and that win put us on the map in Division III tennis, as we earned our first national ranking in many years. Everyone on the team contributed to that win, and it really proved to others and ourselves how much potential we had. I remember feeling very proud of everyone that day.
You’ve been honored by the ITA as a Scholar Athlete since freshman year. To what do you attribute this success?
Mostly just being smart about your time and prioritizing things in your life. I’ve made it a priority to eat well and always get enough sleep, and these habits have helped me a ton in being able to perform my best on the court and also take care of academic responsibilities.
Your team is currently on a four-match winning streak. Have you changed the music in your team room or changed your warmup?
Not much has changed in terms of our approach as a team. It’s helped that we’ve had some more home matches recently, as we obviously feel very comfortable on our courts. Even when we were losing some matches, though, it never seemed like we needed to make any drastic changes. We just had to do a better job of playing up to our capabilities, and not let the pressure of a match get to us.
If you could pick anyone to speak at Commencement, who would it be and why?
I’ll say Andy Roddick. He was the best American male player for most of my childhood, and the person I wanted to be like when I grew up. He’s also a very bright, well-spoken guy who I bet wouldn’t just give a typical commencement speech, but would actually say some funny, interesting, and memorable things that everyone, not just tennis fans, would enjoy.