With two hands on the racquet, Bethesda teen focuses on tennis

Jacob Walker, a rising senior at Sidwell Friends School, practices at the 4 Star Tennis Academy in Fairfax. Photo by Danielle Kiefer

Many teenagers look forward to summer as a chance to turn off their alarm clocks and roll out of bed long after the sun has risen. However, for Jacob Walker, summer means waking up at 7 a.m. every day and practicing tennis for four to five hours.

“He’s looking for a day when he can sleep in,” Walker’s mother, Raina Fishbane, said.

On a clay court to practice for the National Clay Courts Championships that open July 11 in Delray Beach, Fla., Walker uses a two-handed backhand to send the ball flying over the net to his opponent. A rising senior at Sidwell Friends School, Walker started playing tennis when he was about 8 years old at the Edgemoor Club near his home in Bethesda. He has been playing seriously for the past seven years.

“The pros there gave me a lesson, and I started playing more and more from there and loving it,” Walker said.


Walker, 17, is not the first tennis player in his family. According to Walker, his grandfather was “a really good tennis player back in the day,” and the two would often play together.

Walker has been the number one singles player at Sidwell since he joined the team his freshman year. He trains two to three times each week with a private coach from the 4 Star Tennis Academy, and competes in out-of-school tournaments through the U.S. Tennis Association.

“He practices basically every day after school, and he competes in national and local tournaments and travels all over the country,” Fishbane said.

This past May, Sidwell became the MAC champions for the first time at the Mid-Atlantic Conference boys’ tennis tournament, which Walker considers one of his biggest accomplishments and described as “awesome.” Led by Walker, the Sidwell Quakers also recently took home the trophy at the inaugural D.C. State Athletic Association tennis tournament.

Fishbane cites Walker’s hard work and persistence as part of the reason for his success, and she is impressed with how well he balances tennis with rigorous schoolwork.

“I’m really most proud of how hard he works and the effort he’s put in,” Fishbane said. “He’s had to miss a lot that other teenagers do, like school dances, and give up social time.”

Among the top five male players in the USTA Mid-Atlantic section, Walker was named the 2015 All-Met Player of the Year for boys’ tennis in June. He also finished in the top eight last year at the National Clay Courts Championships and holds a combined 42-5 career record at Sidwell, along with other accomplishments.

“Jacob can work hard to win points and is not afraid to work hard for every point,” said Stephen Miguel, Walker’s private coach. “He is able to analyze and strategize as he is playing.”

According to Miguel, Walker’s strengths as a player include good footwork and anticipation, commitment to improving himself, and the ability to mix up his pace and spin well.

The individual aspect of tennis appeals to Walker, and much of his motivation comes from his love of the game.

“It’s just myself to focus on,” Walker said. “The pressure and the joy of winning is all on me.”

In addition to self-motivation, however, support from family and friends through attendance at games is always appreciated.

“This year especially, it’s amazing how many people we got [to attend school tennis matches],” Walker said. “The support was a huge help and was awesome.”

Walker plans to continue his tennis career after high school and has orally committed to Brown University.

“I’m excited to continue playing tennis there and to improve more and play with the team there,” Walker said.

Miguel also has high hopes that Walker will develop his skills further.

“All I expect from him in the future is to keep improving all aspects of his game, and to become a better tennis player who has variety in his game.”

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