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Lower Merion’s Brian Yi is Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week (May 22-28)

The junior has been a key part of the Aces boys’ tennis team, which has lost just one match in three years. Yi captured the Central League singles championship this spring, placed fourth in the District 1 3A singles tournament and on May 27 finished third at the PIAA 3A state singles tournament. Two years ago, he paired with his older brother Justin to win the PIAA 3A state doubles championship. He is undefeated in high school dual matches, and, off the court, has a perfect grade-point average at Lower Merion. Yi works at Penn Medicine Radnor every Thursday as a student volunteer, teaching tennis to children diagnosed with autism at Aceing Autism of Drexel Hill, and he works with other high school students to serve and improve under-privileged communities in the greater Philadelphia region as a Germination Project Fellow.


Q: What do you think has been your best match of the season so far, and what was particularly working for you that day?


A: My best match of the season occurred during the District 1 3A finals against a very strong player in Chait Krishna of Conestoga. The match was very important as winning the match meant that Lower Merion would three-peat as District Champions. During the match, I was able to hit my targets consistently while being aggressive, and kept him off balance by coming to the net. It was a great feeling to help LM win the district title for the third straight year against the always strong Stoga team.


Q: Two years ago, you won the PIAA 3A state doubles title with your older brother Justin. What is your strongest memory of the final match/tournament?


A: My strongest memory of the state finals was when Justin gave me a pep talk during the changeover after losing the first set. My brother and I were up big in the first set, but I started to play tentatively and scared as the thought of winning the state doubles title became more realistic. After my brother’s pep talk, I was able to regain focus and began to play more aggressively. We ended up winning the second set and the rest is history.


Q: It looks like Justin has a bright future playing tennis for Carnegie Mellon University. What have been the most important things you have learned from Justin (on and off the court)?

A: My brother has taught me a great deal of self-belief and the value of working hard every day. Although Justin was not a highly rated player going into his junior year of high school, he always believed he can become a great player with hard work, and on any given day he can beat anyone. Good results started to pile up towards the end of his junior year and the belief he had within himself proved to be a big factor in his success.


Q: Last spring, you were a key part of the Aces’ second consecutive PIAA 3A state team title. What was your favorite memory of last year’s state tournament?


A: My favorite memory of the state tournament was when our team went bowling after our quarterfinal match. There was a lot of pressure for us as we were the defending champions, but going bowling eased the tensions and created stronger bonds for everyone in the team going into the semifinals.


Q: What do you think is the strongest part of your game? What part of your game have you worked on the most recently?


A: The strongest part of my game is my defense. I am able to get to many shots and neutralize the point. That strength was developed from practicing with Justin all the time. If you always play against someone who hits every shot really hard, you are bound to become better at defending and neutralizing. Recently, I’ve been trying to hit more aggressive shots consistently to targets, and am focusing on following my shots into the net to finish the point.


Q: Who are your favorite tennis players? Do you try to pattern your game after any of them?

A: My favorite tennis player is Novak Djokovic. I really like the way he constructs the point and it would be a dream to play like him. However, his mental game is really what I try to mimic. No matter the situation, Djokovic always stays focused and gives maximum effort to win the point. This skill is very important to not only tennis, but life in general.


Q: Tell us a little about your start in tennis. Who have been your top tennis mentors, and what was the most important thing you learned from each of them?


A: I started tennis at a very young age because my dad was an avid tennis player. Throughout the years I had many great coaches that taught me technical skills and strategies, but my dad had the biggest impact on my tennis game. Through my dad’s discipline, I learned the true value of hard work, never giving up under any situation, and that nothing in life of any value comes easy. I also am grateful to my current hitting coach Maksim Tikhomirov, my Lower Merion High School coach Harris Mailman, and my childhood coach, Tauheed Browning of Legacy for allowing me to become the player I am.


Q: Tell us a little about your pre-match preparation the day of a match.

A: The day of a match, I make sure to hydrate by drinking water as often as possible. I make sure to eat a full meal two hours before the match and get practice in thirty minutes prior to the match. Throughout the day, I visualize my shots and mentally simulate how I want the match to be played out in various situations.


Q: What is your favorite tennis venue, and why?

A: My favorite tennis venue is the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open. The stadium is special because of the loud environment not normally seen at tennis tournaments. The cheers and the immense crowd are unlike any other in tennis. It would be a dream come true for me to play there one day.


Q: What is your favorite academic course at Lower Merion? Is there a career path that particularly appeals to you at the present time?


A: My favorite academic course is math because it requires different strategies to solve a problem, similar to tennis. Initially, math was not my favorite course. However, having a great teacher like Mr. Grugan, who truly cared about the progress of each and every student, helped a big deal in my confidence and liking for the subject. As for my career path, I want to be a psychiatrist to help those suffering from mental health struggles. Playing tennis under pressure from a young age made me curious about how the brain makes decisions when in pressure situations and how to overcome them.



Fun facts – Brian Yi

Favorite book: Grit by Angela Duckworth.

Favorite author: J.K. Rowling.

Favorite TV show: Stranger Things.

Favorite movie: Creed 3.

Favorite athlete: Kobe Bryant.

Favorite pre-match pump-up song: Congratulations by Post Malone.

Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles.

Favorite place to visit: South Korea.

Favorite pre-match meal: Bacon, lettuce and tomato hoagie.

Person I most admire, and why: “I admire my mom the most because she has always supported me and always works hard for her work and for the family. Whether it be on the tennis court or in the classroom, my mom provides as much support as she can for me to succeed.”

Family members: Parents John and Christina, older brother Justin.


(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)



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