Robby Shymansky’s father was the one who first put a tennis racquet in his hands and began teaching him the sport. He was only about five-years-old, but a quick learner, and soon after, he developed a passion for tennis that has grown exponentially throughout the years. So much so, that he now he practices almost everyday, only taking off a few days here and there, and is ranked as the top sophomore boys singles player in Pennsylvania.
“Almost immediately, I liked it, and ever since I’ve just loved playing,” says Robby, a quiet but driven young man whose passion for the game often is missed because of his mild manner.
It’s exactly this drive combined with obvious immense talent that just earned the sophomore honors student a second consecutive trip to the PIAA singles championship that will be held May 26 and 27 at the Hershey Racquet Club.
Robby first turned heads at last year’s state finals when, as a freshman, he upset some of the best upperclassmen in the state to become the PIAA runner-up. His experience under immense pressure should work in his favor in 2017.
This year, his path to the state championship comes by a silver medal at the WPIAL championship held May 5, up a notch from last year when he finished third and went on to achieve even greater things. While Robby wouldn’t classify the final match as his best day on the court, still, he says he went all-out in a grueling match against Peters Township’s Connor Bruce that took almost two and a half hours to complete and ended in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, and then a tiebreaker in Connor’s favor, 8-6.
“Connor played a really good match,” says Robby, who isn’t one to make excuses for a loss. “I’ll hopefully get another shot at states.”
But perhaps what bothered Robby the most was that less than two weeks ago he handily defeated Connor at the WPIAL boys’ team tennis championship match — a win that helped the Foxes’ clinch their second consecutive WPIAL championship title and another appearance at the PIAA team championship.
“It was really a game of inches,” observed tennis interim head coach David Prevost of his player who went undefeated in section play this season and earned an overall record of 23-2, including tournaments and the playoffs. “There were so many balls that were just inches inside or outside of the line. But at this level of play you have to let go of what already happened; otherwise, it becomes destructive. Robby is able to do that. He’ll be fine.”
With a bit of prodding about his strengths on the court, the player reluctantly reveals what he considers his edge in the game saying, “I have a pretty good and strong forehand because I can play both left- and right-handed. I also move pretty well on the court and can get a lot of balls back. When you do those things, you’re tough to beat.”
Those assets are some of the reasons why Tennis Recruiting Network gives him a five-star rating and ranks him 40th in the country in his age group. But he’s not one to worry or care about rankings, and, in fact, didn’t have any knowledge of the stats.
“Robby is not in it to be a star,” says Alex Slezak, who was sidelined this season due to back surgery and serves as a consultant for the time being, but will return next year as head coach. “He doesn’t care too much about rankings or to be in the paper or media. He just loves to play tennis.”