Athlete of the Week: Tennis player Jared Phillips discusses attaining WashU’s top singles spot

| Junior Sports Editor

Jared Phillips has a 9-6 record competing as WashU’s No. 1 singles player this season. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

Washington University senior Jared Phillips has had an outstanding season, earning the nod as WashU’s top men’s tennis singles player this season. Since his first year, Phillips has been an avid member of the tennis team, competing for conference and national championships multiple times. Student Life sat down with the graduating senior to discuss his athletic career thus far, his future plans after graduating, and his overall history with the sport of tennis. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. ‘

Student Life (SL): Could you start by introducing yourself? 

Jared Phillips (JP): Originally, I’m from Long Island, New York, and lived there my whole life. I have a younger sister who’s a freshman in college as well, and [I] grew up in a tennis family. My whole family has played tennis throughout my life, and I think that’s a pretty big influence on why I’ve chosen tennis. I also grew up playing a lot of other sports, which I think was really good for my tennis play. Overall, I wasn’t really forced into just playing tennis and going super hard on that as a young kid, which was nice. Here at WashU, I’m an Accounting and Finance double-major minoring in Legal Studies. 

SL: What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of academics and athletics? 

JP: I would say [one of my biggest hobbies] is playing a lot of sports, really just basketball, soccer, and working out as well. I think a lot of my friends are pretty athletic. Sports take up a lot of my time. I also like to watch movies. I didn’t really watch movies a lot when I was young, like in high school — for whatever reason, I was more of a show watcher. So now, I’ve been watching a lot of older movies, which passes a lot of my time pretty well. I also like music, listening to a lot of music. One of my friends plays guitar. I’ve never played an instrument but I love listening to my friend play guitar all the time.

SL: Could you talk about your history with tennis and how you first got involved with the sport? 

JP: So, I would say honestly, one of my first memories as a kid was playing tennis. I live right next to an elementary school that has tennis courts, and my first memories are of being on the court with my dad and mom. My dad would hand-feed me balls over the net, and I would swing and miss, and I would get all upset and annoyed, but I always enjoyed playing. My dad played in high school, and he’s from rural West Virginia, and he ended up getting to the state finals. He was inducted into his County Hall of Fame. So, he was a good tennis player in his own right. That had a big influence on me, especially as the rest of my family played. 

SL: What inspired you to become a college athlete at WashU?  

JP: I was really into sports, and I loved just competing, no matter what sport I really played. And, you know, at some level, I always wanted to continue to play, and I felt a lot of pride, I think, in just being a college athlete regardless of the level. I can’t really imagine myself, as I’m graduating in a month, not having any sort of competitive structure in my life, and it’s gonna be kind of odd. 

SL: Now, in your last season at WashU, could you reflect on your four years of playing?

JP: I’ve been in a very different position all four years of being on the team, and I think that’s something that I’ve really appreciated. During my freshman year, I didn’t play at all. Our team was really good. We made the semifinals of the national championship and we were really close to winning. In my second season, I was at the back end of the lineup, but consistently played five singles. I did really well, and I played doubles as well throughout the year. I moved up the next year, as I played three singles but didn’t play doubles, so it was a different kind of experience. Now, playing at the top of the lineup, which is completely different from any other position, I think that’s really defined my experience. I think all four years we’ve really done a great job as a team. Besides the first month of my freshman year, when one senior quit, there’s not a single person who quit the tennis team. I think that’s something that shows the kind of experience that we all have and the camaraderie that we build. 

SL: How does it feel to end your time at WashU in the top singles position?

JP: I’m really thankful and proud of myself. It’s nice to see that I’ve grown into this kind of position. I have played a lot of matches and pulled through for my teammates, and my teammates [in turn] had the confidence in me going out there against players who are some of the best players in the country, but they have all the confidence in me to go out there and win my match. I’m thankful that I have teammates like that. It’s a really nice feeling to end in this position. 

SL: How does this title compare to other accomplishments you’ve had in your athletic career?

JP: I think it’s probably the best accomplishment I have had in my tennis career. It’s hard, you know, because there have always been matches that I’ve had really great wins, and I put the team over the edge, or, you know, I just played really well and have been successful, but I don’t know, I think playing number one for WashU and winning matches for us and getting us to the indoor national final, which we’ve only done three or four times and we’ve only won once, is really special. It’s like the culmination of my life’s work, I guess. You know, I put endless hours into playing and practicing and doing all that just to be in a position where I can represent a prestigious university, like WashU, and play matches where we can have a chance to win something and put our names on a banner and represent WashU in a really positive way. It’s just something that I’m really proud of. 

SL: What are some team goals for the rest of the season?

JP: This upcoming Wednesday we leave for our conference championship, and we are hoping to win it all. We’ve got a great chance. We played a bunch of really tough matches recently with only a few losses. We played No. 1-7 in the national rankings, which the coach said he’d never seen in the history of his being here. So, you know, we’ve played a tough schedule and have had good experiences. I think that could serve us really well. Any team, I think, can really beat each other on a given day, so I think that’s something that we’re looking forward to and ready to compete for. If we do well there, we can get our chance to go to the nationals and the NCAA Tournament, hopefully, and, you know, make it as far as we can. We’re hosting the National Championship from the Elite Eight onwards in Forest Park this year, so we hope to get past regionals, win some matches there, and be playing in the Elite Eight at Forest Park, on our home courts, our home turf. So that’d be really, really awesome.

SL: What are some personal goals you have in mind going into the future? 

JP: I’m graduating, and then I’m fortunate enough to be going on a trip with a few of my friends to travel. I didn’t study abroad because we had tennis season in spring. So we’re going on a month-long trip to Asia and some of Europe, which will be really fun. That will be the longest break I have ever had from playing tennis. I had an internship last summer and was doing consulting for an accounting firm, and I’ll be back there next summer or starting in August working full-time in New York City, which is really nice. I am from right outside New York City, so that’ll be nice being close to my family, but still working in my own world in New York and making my way there. I don’t necessarily know my tennis aspirations after college — I’ll probably play recreationally. Perhaps play with some of my friends who I’ve played competitive tennis with growing up.

SL: The last question is one we ask all Student Life Athletes of the Week. Would you rather have fish for hands or adopt a child every time you hear “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

JP: If I adopted a child every time I heard Bohemian Rhapsody, I would have a lot of children.

SL: Do you listen to the song a lot? 

JP: I do like it. Honestly, I have listened to it a bit more recently. Because, as I said, my friend plays guitar, and I’ve gotten into a lot of that classic-rock, electric-guitar type stuff. So, I might hear it. Maybe I’ll hear it randomly, and then I’ll have to adopt a child. But, fish for hands though? Any kind of fish? 

SL: Yeah, any fish. 

JP: All right. I’m gonna take the fish for hands because I’m gonna get one of those suction fish that, like, suck on to things, so I could pick stuff up, because I don’t think I can handle the burden of that many kids. 

2024 AOTW Tracker: Adopt a Child 5. Fish for Hands 3.

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