While so many others were warming up by the fireplace on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve in La-Grange, Wone-Mi was getting in another round of tennis practice at the McCluskey Center.
It was 44 degrees outside, and that is where Wone-Mi was for more than 60 shivering minutes. The 14-year-old LaGrange High freshman was taking another tennis lesson, and she was ignoring the pain. Not everybody would play tennis in near-freezing conditions.
But Wone-Mi would without hesitation. She wants to get better, and she wants to crack the Lady Granger tennis lineup in the 2018 season. Wone-Mi is modest, and she is equipped with a tennis arsenal, even at the age of 14.
“I’m okay,” said Wone-Mi.
It goes a little bit deeper than that for the mild-mannered tennis whiz. Underneath her overcoat is a tennis champion trying to get out.
“I have a good forehand (shot), and I have some spin. I’m working on my drop ball. I need to get better. I’m just trying to get the ball in,” said Wone-Mi. What else does she have, and what else does the teen tennis angel want?
“I want to make my family proud,” said Wone-Mi.
For the past two years she has been taking tennis lessons from local pro David Harpole. Wone-Mi got another high-powered workout with Harpole on Sunday afternoon. Yes, it was New Year’s Eve.
And absolutely, both Wone-Mi and Harpole wanted to make some tennis headway even in the 44-degree temperature. As in past tennis lessons, Harpole saw some good signs from Wone-Mi.
“She has good hand-eye coordination. She has a good backhand, and Wone-Mi is left-handed,” said Harpole, who was wearing a LaGrange High tennis sweatshirt.
As he shivered and Wone-Mi returned the ball, both instructor and pupil got something out of the wintery weather workout besides frostbite.
Along with her tennis skills, Wone-Mi’s coach also likes her on-court demeanor.
“She puts in the practice out here. She is pretty much out here every day. If I told her to practice for another hour, Wone-Mi would,” said Harpole. “She never gets mad.”
The female tennis talent is getting better by the week, too. Wone-Mi is taking Harpole’s advice, and she is advanced for a high school freshman. Wone-Mi has been playing some serious tennis since she was nine years old.
The game is fun and is never really work for her. “She loves it,” said Harpole. “We’ve been working on her returns and serves. Wone-Mi’s serve is about 60 to 70 mph. It is not the best serve, but she has some topspin.”
She needs more of the same, according to Harpole, the McCluskey tennis pro.
“Everybody needs practice, practice, practice. But Wone-mi is adding some pace (to her game). She also has athleticism,” said Harpole.
There was another tennis player on the court on New Year’s Eve with Harpole and Wone-Mi. Taking part in the serving and returning was Lucas Harpole, the tennis pro’s son. The younger Harpole is 11 years old, and he has some tennis swagger.
“I like staying active, and I enjoy playing. Tennis players need focus and attitude,” said Lucas Harpole.