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How this Augusta-area tennis player made the most of the pandemic to shape his future



AUGUSTA, Ga. – Richmond Academy senior Cy McLeod has a decorated junior tennis career.

He’s been playing in junior tennis tournaments at the state, region and national level since he was 12, ranked the No. 1 player in the state of Georgia in three different age groups and top 100 overall in the nation.

As a college recruit, he’s currently a four-star prospect ranked sixth in the state, No. 81 in the southeast region and 183 in the nation, according to Tennis Recruiting Network.

He’s reached this level while having limited practice match play.

McLeod said most of his training in Augusta is centered around drills, hitting with the ball machine and occasionally getting to practice in Evans in match play with a friend.

“Growing up in Augusta, there’s no one here to play with because all the juniors play golf,” he said. “It was a tough process, advancing my game because there’s not a lot of other players to compete with. I had to hit on the ball machine four, five, six days a week.”

That all changed when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

While he did lose his junior tennis season, the pandemic shutting down schools and every day life opened up an opportunity for McLeod to hone his tennis skills.

He spent his summer in Charleston, getting in front of tennis coaches and some of the top tennis players in the south region. It gave him a chance to play tennis against someone other than a machine and to receive coaching from someone that wasn’t his dad, who was a former tennis player.

“When COVID hit in March, it was a really big deal,” McLeod said. “A ton of my friends train in the Charleston area and we bought a summer pass to go down there for me and I just stayed down there for four or five months with a couple different guys and trained down there. And it was awesome.

“I’ve never really had that, being surrounded by really great players, competition like that. I felt I got a lot better in those couple of months.”

Spending his time in Charleston, McLeod said he was exposed to a whole new training regimen. He got different perspectives of tennis coaches and got to test his training head-to-head.

It was the first time since middle school he worked with an actual training coach.

“Having other point of views or opinions, just other people trying to tweak my game, it was really nice,” McLeod said. “So I can get different perspectives on everything. It always helps to hear the same thing from a different point of view. I thought that was awesome as well.

“Not even just that there’s tons of player down there who are high level, a ton of them are going to play Division-I as well. That was just a great opportunity. Especially right before my senior year, couldn’t have been better timing.”

But like most of the recruits, he was also negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

McLeod said for the last six months, he had his eye on continuing his tennis career at a military academy. Not just for tennis, but for opportunities post-grad as well. The Naval Academy had the advantage as his uncle attended, but he was also interested in Army West Point.

Because of the pandemic affecting the recruiting period and closing college campuses, he wasn’t able to meet the coach or even see the campus right away. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that he made a limited list of about 50 people to visit Annapolis, Md.

Since then, he was sold.

“I was already leaning that way at that time but once I got to see that campus it was even better,” McLeod added.

And as one of the top junior tennis players in the area, McLeod was able to turn a junior career into a collegiate career.

Though he was already successful, had the coronavirus pandemic not happened, McLeod may not have had the chance to go to Charleston for an extended period of time to solely focus on improving his tennis skills.

Richmond Academy will host Greater Atlanta Christian Schools on Tuesday for a chance to play in the state championship in Rome on May 8.

Somethings happen for a reason and while there have been long term negative impacts from the COVID pandemic, McLeod was able to find a long term positive.

“It was just the perfect opportunity,” McLeod said.