So far, this summer feels like any other three-month hiatus for Kendrick Au.
He’s helping out with Tennis Newfoundland and Labrador’s summer programs, conducting some private lessons, golfing, spending time with friends in St. John’s, even taking in a trip to Montreal this week to see U2 perform.
But there will be a difference. Unlike the previous three summers, Au won’t be heading back to Brown University in Providence, R.I.,in late August.
“It’s kind of nice to be home and feel settled again,” says Auh, who graduated with a degree in biology after four years at Brown, an Ivy League school, and will begin studies at the Memorial University School of Medicine this fall.
“I’ve started to buy things for my room and I’m looking at cars. It’s very exciting to be back in the city I grew up in and know that I’m here for another four years at least and maybe for my career.”
His other career, that of a Division 1 student-athlete, has come to an end and Au won’t deny walking away was an emotional experience.
“We played Yale in our last match and I was lucky enough to finish with a win, hit a winner on match point one last time.
“I’ve played tennis since I was 13 and I worked very hard at it, devoted a lot of summers and time. I’ve had some ups and downs, but a lot of tremendous experiences, it’s surreal to think that my competitive tennis career is now over.”
And what a career it was.
Au arrived at Brown and immediately started for the school’s singles team, finishing his freshman season with a team-best 24 wins and a 6-1 record in league play, helping the Bears to a second place finish in the Ivy standings.
In his sophomore season, Au became a doubles starter and finished with a 42-28 record, playing in 23 of 25 matches.
In his junior year, Au went on to enjoy the best season of his career, copping a Northeast Intercollegiate doubles title with partner Charlie Posner, and not long after that, a single title. Later that year, Au and Posner advanced finished second at both the U.S. Tennis Association invitational and at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association regional championship.
“That was amazing and really helped my game,” Au says.
“Those Northeast Intercollegiates were always the first part of the season and they really give you a boost of confidence if you win them or far.”
The greater honour that season, however, was being voted co-captain by teammates, many older than he was.
“You’re the leader of the squad, so you open the lines of communication between the coach and the other players. Your on-court responsibility is to give your all every day and make sure you’re vocal, setting a prime example for the younger guys.
“It’s something I’ve strived to do my last two years and something I hope I could have passed on to younger guys who are now in my position.”
Au entered his senior year as the team’s only captain, won all but two matches in Ivy League play, captured another Northeast Intercollegiate doubles crown with new partner Sam Fife and came within a win of a second straight singles title.
The only disappointment was not being able to help Brown win an Ivy League title — they had won back-to-back crowns in the two seasons before he arrived.
But rather than dwell on the negative, Au looks for the silver lining.
“We had a great year (2010-11 season) and hopefully, it’ll snowball into something great with the guys next year. That would be a proud moment for me, I would feel like I had a hand in helping those guys grown into a championship team.”
Making his final year even more meaningful were the accolades he received. In addition to being named to the spring Academy All-Ivy team, Au won both the ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award for the Northeast region and Brown University’s own Dave Zucconi Award, presented to the male varsity athlete who most consistently displays the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play.
“That kind of embodies who I am and who I strive to be, and it’s nice to recognized for that.”
On its website, Brown describes Au “as the hardest worker at practice, setting the tone each day with his work ethic and positive attitude. His community service resume is legend, working with Fox Point, Toys for Tots, Breast Cancer Awareness and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House.”
Any student-athlete can attest to the challenge presented in balancing school and varsity sports, and Au is no different. While he was an honours student at Prince of Wales Collegiate and admits to “not having to study much in high school.”
“That quickly changed in college.
“I definitely got kicked in the butt a couple times in the first couple of semesters for being a little lazy and not being familiar with how to balance my time.”
Au quickly found his footing and now feels ready to tackle med school, using the time-management skills he gained while dealing with a grueling schedule at Brown which often involved 15-hour days split between classes, tennis practice, labs and studying.
“I think it’s been very good practice for me to live that life for a little while and grasp the skills tools needed to deal with the long days and the fatigue while still maintaining a high function.
“That’s valid preparation for med school.”