Neenah High School has a long tradition of cranking out top-flight tennis players.
Ryan Risgaard, the No. 1 singles player for the Rockets this season, is building an impressive resume that puts him right up there with the best in school history.
Risgaard, a junior, took fifth place at the WIAA Division 1 state meet this season — winning five matches — and followed it up a week later with the Rockets’ only victory against Milwaukee Marquette at team state.
For his accomplishments, Risgaard has been named Post-Crescent Media’s boys’ tennis athlete of the year.
Q: You finished the season strong and were playing your best tennis at the state tournament. Are you happy with how your season went overall?
A: Overall, it was an amazing season for me. I started off really slow. My first couple matches it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t in the zone or anything like that. But as the season went on, it was kind of those first losses that I had drove me to practice harder and really finish the season like I did. The state tournament weekend was just amazing. I played my best and I really focused through every match, which was great.
Q: How gratifying is it to perform that well when you get to that stage of the season?
A: It’s amazing. There’s so many great players down there. Just to be able to play all of them and then perform at your best level is just great. That’s what high school tennis is all about. I was just glad to be a part of it.
Q: Coach (Tom) Berven schedules tough competition every year, especially early in the season. Do you like that?
A: I love the competition. In the Valley we have great players, but it’s nothing like the hardcore Milwaukee players and even the Illinois players that we play right away in the beginning of the season with the Nicolet and Marquette quads. It’s great just to play the best of the best to see what’s out there and how we stack up against them. I think it’s great for the Neenah players. We get a shot at some of the great teams, which helps us build as a team and get better individually.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a part of the Neenah tennis program, with so much history of good players and great teams?
A: Oh, it’s amazing. I grew up in the Park and Rec program for Neenah. That’s really how I started with tennis. I enjoyed working with Coach Berven through that, and then just the amount of players that Neenah has had throughout the past however many years. It’s just been great to continue the tradition of Neenah tennis and just bring an overall good aspect to Neenah tennis in general.
Q: What is the best part of your game right now?
A: I think my serve has really improved a lot. I’ve been working more like weight training and fitness, just to try to build up the speed and the variety. That’s why I feel like I can hit harder with my serve and hold my serve. That’s when I feel I’m most confident on the court.
Q: How many tennis racquets do you own?
A: I own six of the same racquet (HEAD Speed). .. I don’t even know why. It’s good to have back-ups.
Q: Do you switch them in and out or do you have one of the six that you like for matches and the other just for practice?
A: I try to rotate them because they all wear down pretty quick. You have to make sure you rotate them. Actually, my dad has the same racquet as I do, so that’s basically why I have six. We flip-flop them out. We use the same string and we can both use the same amount of racquets, which is nice.
Q: You come from a tennis playing family?
A: Oh, yeah. My family plays a lot of tennis, I’ll say that.
Q: Who’s the best player in the family?
A: I don’t know if my sister will like me saying this, but I think I will take that title.
Q: How competitive do you get?
A: We try to play a lot. We are very competitive. When we play each other, there’s been tears. There’s been blood. But it’s just fun.
Q: Do you have a favorite tennis player to watch?
A: I like a ton of pro players, but mostly Roger Federer. Everyone says Roger Federer, but I just love him for his class. When he’s on the court, he just has that champion lifestyle and that champion attitude, which is so great for any type of athlete or tennis player.
Q: If you got a chance to play Federer, do you think you could win a game from him?
A: (Laughs) No doubt. I’d ace him. I’d ace him four times. That’s the only way.
Q: If you were invited to actually play in a Grand Slam event, which one would you want to play in?
A: I’d go with Wimbledon. The tradition and grass courts are amazing.
Q: Are you playing a lot of tennis this summer?
A: I’m doing the tournaments on the weekends and trying to travel around the Midwest and other areas, trying to get some good competition. Other than that, I’m just practicing, training off the court and trying to build up some strength and agility. I’m also working for the Neenah Park and Rec teaching tennis, so that’s great to get out there and help the kids.
Q: Do you hope to continue playing tennis in college?
A: That’s the big question. I’d love to play tennis in college. It would be great. I’m looking at a ton of different schools right now, either like a normal team or club tennis, whichever one fits best. But, yeah, I’d definitely love to play tennis after high school.
— Mike Sherry: 920-993-1000, ext. 289, or email@example.com; on Twitter @MikeSherry14
Family: Parents, David and Ann; sisters, Kiki and Liz.
Accomplishments: Finished 28-9 at No. 1 singles for the Rockets. Won the Fox Valley Association No. 1 singles title, was second in the Neenah sectional, was 5-1 (fifth place, after being seeded No. 11) in the WIAA Division 1 state meet and 1-0 in the Division 1 team state meet.