Stanley Rhodes started his tennis career at a very young age with a few advantages on his side of the net – including a father who is the club pro at Huron Valley Tennis Club. But all of his success has been the result of his own dedication, hard work and love of the sport, and learning from his father has just helped get him over the net.
And while the Pioneer senior’s competitive playing days may be coming to an end, it’s important to serve up all of his amazing accomplishments during his high school career. So, let’s start there – this is going to take a while.
Rhodes was the 2017 Regional Champion and won the state tournament at No. 4 Singles for the Pioneers as a freshman. The following year as a sophomore, he was 2018 Regional Champion and reached the semifinals at the state meet at No. 3 Singles.
As a junior, Rhodes reached the quarterfinals at No. 2 Singles as the Pioneers were Division 1 State Co-Champions with AA Huron – Pioneer’s first title since 2007.
Rhodes was a team co-captain for his senior season in a year that included format changes to the State Tournament due to COVID. In a State Semifinals match, he defeated Huron’s Angie Zhou at one singles to help the Pioneers score a 6-2 win over the River Rats and reach the State Finals where they lost to a very strong Okemos team.
Another COVID inspired innovation was the 8-player No. 1 Singles Tournament. Rhodes was seeded No. 6 (tops among the Ann Arbor D1 schools having won the season series over Zhou and Skyline’s Anthony Van Oyen) and lost to Bloomfield Hills sophomore Noah Roslin 6-2, 6-3.
Roslin is an outstanding player and Rhodes felt he battled the youngster.
“It was a tricky match, and I felt going into it that I had to hit my shots well and play consistently,” he said. “He is a very consistent and agile player, so I knew I had to play focused and smart. I obviously hoped to do better, but I’m still happy that I gave all my effort, despite falling short.”
Rhodes, who just turned 17, hasn’t fallen short very often on the tennis court. He started young and improved every step of the way.
“I was introduced to tennis at a very young age (5) by my dad (Jeff Rhodes),” he says. “Personally, I enjoy the individual competition and when you’re on the court it’s just you and you alone. You have to make all the decisions for yourself, and if you’re not mentally tough, you can’t win.”
Needless to say, this has been a challenging year for everyone, especially high school seniors. It’s not exactly how they envisioned serving up their final year of high school.
“School has been quite different because of the pandemic, and it’s tough to not see friends and classmates,” Rhodes says. “The overall environment of school has greatly changed, and while there are positives and negatives, I think the pandemic has hurt a lot of what makes school interesting. Adjusting to it has also been tough, as it doesn’t quite feel like school.”
Tennis felt more at home especially with the team having another successful season.
“We were really motivated this year as a team, as our coach has always said, ‘if the team wins, everyone wins,’ and that rang true the most this year with the new format for states,” Rhodes said. “At states, we were really motivated to beat our rival Huron, something we knew we could do but had not done all year. By beating them convincingly in the semis, it was a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of relief, as Huron had typically gotten the better of us for the four years I’ve been on the team.”
While Rhodes is a gifted physical player, he also excelled at the other part of tennis.
“I think the mental part of tennis is one of the best aspects of my game, as I try to be the most composed person on the court,” he says. “During each match, I try to size up my opponents’ strength and weaknesses, and I also think that I can easily adapt to new styles of play to beat different opponents.”
Rhodes, who finished his high school career with a 108-23 record, says being with his teammates was a great experience – something he will remember more than any win or loss.
“I think we’ve gotten along well and shown a lot of resiliency through the ups and downs of the season,” he said. “We’re also there for one another for every match, cheering on each other and trying to be better players but also better teammates. I’m quite grateful for the support they’ve given me during my matches, and I know I’ll definitely miss the team spirit of high school tennis.”
Stanley, of course, learned plenty from his father, who also is the head tennis coach for the South Lyon East girls’ team and an assistant coach with the Pioneer boys’ program.
“I’ve learned almost all of my tennis skills from my dad, particularly the left-handed slice serve,” he says. “In addition, a lot of my competitive spirit comes from him.”
He also has learned quite a bit from his mom, Ning Tsui.
“I’ve learned from my mom a lot of commitment and focus skills, and how I should value school and take advantage of the opportunities I get,” he says.
And Rhodes has certainly done that – on and off the tennis courts.
Two of those off the court arenas include the classroom and music.
An excellent student with a 3.935 GPA, Rhodes also is in the first section playing violin in the Pioneer Symphony Orchestra – one of the top high school programs in the country. So, where does he go from here? Good question?
“Looking to the future, I’ve already applied to a few schools,” says Rhodes, who has been accepted to U-M and is waiting to hear back from a few other schools. “College tennis is not a big factor in my applications as it is mostly a backup option. That said, I like to keep my options open. At the least I hope to at least play tennis in a more informal setting, as it’s something I hope I continue to do throughout my life.”
And if his competitive tennis days are over and he turns his attention to other dreams and goals, Rhodes can look back with pride and know that he left it all out on the court.