Oct. 17, 2013
By Staci Gasser
Josh Hagar plays with no expectations but is making a big impact on the team.
After spending the summer recovering from a carpel tunnel release surgery on his wrist and not playing in a tournament since last Thanksgiving, the freshman from Texas started off the 2013 fall season with a 5-2 record in singles play and 2-1 in doubles play.
And he was just named the Bobby Bayliss Invitational Most Outstanding Player Oct. 6 after beating Chris Simich of Louisville in the final match 6-5, 6-3. He went 3-1 in singles play and 2-1 in doubles play in total against top competition.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it,” Hagar says. “I knew I had done pretty well in my matches, but it wasn’t until the last morning of the tournament that I knew I was in second place. I went in both my matches not expecting much, just focused and got both my wins. It was a pretty cool honor.”
The Austin, Texas native, who is physically smaller than most of his opponents, is known for using his speed on the court and matching his opponents with positioning and ball quality.
“I’m like a guerilla fighter,” Hagar suggests. “I attack when I can, but not all the time.”
Hagar has had to adjust from being a 100 percent outdoor player to a 75 percent indoor player since stepping onto the Notre Dame courts.
Playing outdoors brings on environmental effects such as wind and sun. Players tend to have a higher net clearance on the ball and move back off the baseline to give themselves more time to adjust to wind. In indoor play, players hit flatter, have a more linear ball shape and can get away with standing closer to the baseline and being more aggressive.
“The coaching staff is so good at being clear on what those adjustments are and not changing your game too much,” Hagar explains. “So it’s been an easy transition.”
Hagar was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but opted to attend the Austin Tennis Academy for one year before going to college.
“It was more to get a greater opportunity for college options, build my credibility as a junior player, give myself more time to talk to coaches and really figure out where I wanted to go,” Hagar says. “I didn’t feel my ranking reflected how good I thought I could be.”
Hagar then made five official visits, first to Notre Dame, then Harvard, Princeton, Northwestern and Rice. But his mind was already made up after he left South Bend.
“After my fist visit, I didn’t want to leave,” he recalls. “I knew it was a perfect fit for me because there are a lot of similarities between here and ATA—the sense of community, people care about you, I felt right at home. I thrive off that.
“All were great schools, but Notre Dame did just have that extra intangible of togetherness that I don’t think you can find anywhere else.”
Hagar started playing the sport at a local country club camp when he was nine years old. He said he loved the individuality of it the most, and that’s what made him pick it up full time.
“I played baseball and soccer before tennis and I always wanted to have the ball. I had to score the goal, hit the run,” Hagar admits. “I always wanted to be in the game and with tennis, you are always in the game.”
But despite loving the individuality the sport provided, Hagar is appreciative of his new family. He says he’s impressed with how close the team has become, even in his first weeks here.
“Coming from juniors to college, it’s so nice having a team and guys around who are going to support you, when you’re losing or winning. Same with the coaches,” Hagar professes. “But time management is key in the personal aspect. When to practice, when to do homework, when to be with friends, making sure you’re getting everything done and doing it well.”
Hagar hopes to contribute as much to the lineup as he can this season and help the team put a dent in their new Atlantic Coast Conference. And he will do so in his style: no expectations.