In true linebacker fashion, Westlake’s Tyler Malin looked at his coaches and supporters and danced in celebration after a hard-fought point on April 9 against Avon. On the tennis court, he instinctively reverts back to the intensity and mentality he brought to the Demons’ football team last fall.
Malin is not new to either setting, having started tennis at a young age and football as a freshman in high school. He is new, however, to playing both in the same year as a dual-sport athlete with this being his first year of high school tennis. Malin said watching players like Rafel Nadal and Roger Federer was what got him interested in tennis.
At 11 years old, the now-junior actually spent several years away from the hardcourt and sports in general after feeling “burnt out” from tennis. Before that, Malin and his family moved from Arizona to Florida while he spent time at the IMG tennis academy and worked with a private coach for three years.
After that, his family moved back to Arizona where he started football at 15 years old. Due to his father’s job as a NFL scout, Malin then moved to Texas, before moving to Louisiana and ultimately ending up in Westlake.
“At first when I came up here, I thought everyone was weird,” Malin laughed. “Ever since, everyone’s been so nice and it’s like a family here in Westlake. It’s a brotherhood, I love it. The football team, we might not have had the greatest season, but we’re bonded pretty close.”
While football and tennis is a sports pairing that might not immediately come to mind when talking about a dual-sport athlete, both Malin and Westlake’s tennis coach Doug Cook said the benefits of each sport compliment each other better than some may think.
“Footwork, absolutely,” Malin said of what aspects he incorporates into each sport. “Training helps my forward and changing directions for football. Those quick, quick speeds.”
Cook added that though he had never personally coached someone with the size of Malin, “The typical tennis player has become bigger and stronger. They used to tell them not to go to the weight room, but now that’s all changed. They want them to go to the weight room.”
Don’t let Malin’s stature and muscular build fool you, he has as soft a touch as you’ll find on the court. During a match against Avon, he seamlessly went from rocketing serves at his opponent to tapping backhands over the net to secure a point.
“He really has an all-court game,” Cook said. “He’s got a lot of shots – a very mature game even though he’s been away from it a little bit. Strength in anything is going to help because you could hit the ball harder.”
Though Malin found an early home in the second singles positions behind sophomore Rahul Jain, the two will often swap positions as the talent-levels are so similar. Cook said that when the two play each other during the week at practices, they will often split their matches 50/50, each winning half the time.
Having that kind of talent at hand for the rest of this season and all of next season – add on one more for Jain – excites not only Cook but also Malin.
“That’s gonna be awesome,” Malin said. “We always joke around, always encouraging each other. We’re always playing next to each other so that’s kinda cool.”
As of last Thursday, the Demons sat at 11-4 on the season after a tough non-conference slate opening the season left them at 4-3. Malin rallied off 12 straight wins in dual meets after losing his only match to Walsh Jesuit on March 28 and stands at 13-1 on the season.
Malin said, and the results show, that he is thrilled to be back on the court.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I think about how I wish I would’ve continued playing (tennis). Even though football is my main sport, it’s just kind of fun. It’s helping me with football and everything. I just want to go out there and compete.”
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