‘Throwback’ Ticer comes into his own on the tennis court

Mike Mullen

When Avery Ticer was a sophomore on Minnesota’s tennis team, the team voted for senior Thomas Haug to be its captain.

But Haug said he wasn’t comfortable with the extra responsibility, and instead deferred the position to 19-year-old Ticer, the team’s youngest player.

Minnesota coach David Geatz said Ticer acted more like a 35-year-old.

“Avery is one of the most responsible players I’ve ever coached,” Geatz said. “He’s kind of a throwback guy – just incredibly dependable. If you tell him to be some place at 2 o’clock, he’ll be there at 1:55.”

As a senior and third-year captain – an honor Geatz said he can’t recall in Minnesota history – Ticer’s responsibilities have grown. He tells Geatz which uniforms the team wants and runs almost independently from his coaches during practice.

“I almost don’t even pay attention to him anymore,” Geatz said. “I just give him a court and I know he’ll get something out of it.”

Ticer came into this season ranked 81st in the nation – a number most certainly bolstered by his exceptional play over the summer. He went 18-0 and won three tournaments during the summer college season, an uncoached series of events that do not affect team standings.

The highlight of Ticer’s summer came when he won the circuit-ending ITA National Summer Championships. To get the title, Ticer beat three of Ohio State’s top four players, including two ranked in the top 120.

“Those were guys that had given me trouble in the past,” Ticer said. “(I played them) at the end of the tournament, so everyone was a little lethargic, and those guys are real grinders. But I felt like I was just playing at a higher level.”

Ticer’s win got him into the main draw of the ITA Regional Tournament. In late August, he was named the ITA Summer Circuit player of the year.

Ticer said he’s come a long way since his sophomore year, citing a turning point that came late in that season.

After losing a string of matches, Ticer lost 6-3, 6-0 to Baylor’s Benjamin Becker. While Becker was no slouch – he won last year’s national singles title – Ticer took the loss to heart.

“I sat down with my dad after the match, and we talked about my game,” Ticer said. “I was playing too aggressive – I was trying to go too big. I was having problems with my arm and making too many mistakes.”

Assistant coach Adam Cohen said he thinks Ticer’s aggressive style was leaving him spent.

“It was almost like he used too much energy,” Cohen said. “He’d win a long point, and then pump his fist and get excited – which he still does. But now I think he uses his energy more wisely.”

Ticer said he decided that day to work more on his movement and getting into shape. And part of getting into shape meant Geatz suggesting that Ticer change his eating habits.

“I used to eat a lot more McDonald’s,” Ticer said. “Now I’m more into Subway or Bruegger’s Bagels, or places like that.”

Geatz called Ticer a “student of the game,” saying his tennis knowledge sets him apart from players of similar talent.

“He’s smart, and he’s got all kinds of experience,” Geatz said. “He probably knows more about tennis than a lot of college coaches. I’d say he’s the best captain we’ve ever had.”