Weber State tennis: Nittaya Phonharath takes unconventional path to college court
For Nittaya Phonharath, playing tennis isn't so much about winning matches.
It's about playing.
She's playing college tennis for Weber State.
After all, how many tennis players can say their father, who taught himself the game, taught them?
"My dad played when he moved to the U.S. [in his 20s] and taught me when I was 7," Phonharath said. "He's always been my coach. We didn't know what we were doing. We watched a lot of tennis on TV, and I did some group lessons. I was lucky to have a younger brother who was my hitting partner."
Phonharath graduated from Hunter High School, where she played No. 1 singles all four years. What she lacked in technique she made up for with athleticism and an instinct for the game.
"She's very athletic and moves very smoothly," Weber State coach Jonas Ehrlin said. "She has good balance when she hits her shot. Naturally, she' very powerful. One of her strengths is her aggressive ground strokes, and she probably is the hardest server on the team. She's mostly self-taught. She never had a teaching pro. She didn't have some of the benefits other kids have had. She just had a father who took an interest in her."
Ehrlin liked her potential so much that when she graduated early, he wasted no time in getting her into a Weber State uniform. She was competing for the Wildcats at age 17.
"I've kind of had a rough season," Phonharath said. "I've been injured for much of the season. I've had back problems and leg cramps. What I've been working on this year is my mental game. I've had some anger issues. You just have to learn how to move on to the next point. You can't change it."
It's a part of the game that was something she had to teach herself, but just as with her serve and her ground stroke, she's proving to be a good teacher.