This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section and how lives are positively shaped by tennis. Just a few weeks ago, stand-out Mid-Atlantic player Hunter Koontz made his professional tennis tournament debut at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. And while this was a momentous moment, what’s more impressive is how he is influencing lives on and off the court too.
If you talk to diehard tennis fans about the Citi Open, a professional tennis tournament in Washington D.C., and ask them their favorite time to go to the event, most will say the first weekend. I’m sure you’re asking yourself “but why?” That’s simple: The first Saturday and Sunday of the event, professional ATP and WTA players are walking the grounds freely to their practice courts (tip: snag those autographs and selfies!) and you can watch local players grinding it out to get one step closer to the Main Draw.
And such was the case for Richmond native, Hunter Koontz. You may know him as a top ranked junior player in Mid-Atlantic or stand out player at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA), but at Citi Open on Sunday, July 29, Koontz was leaving it all out on the court battling France’s Vincent Millots (11) in Round 1 of Men’s Qualifying.
A set down, the second set got tighter and the cheers got louder. In the stands were Koontz’s former high school teammates from Deep Run High School (Richmond, VA), friends from Virginia Tech, fellow Richmond natives, and the loudest of all – Country Club of Virginia members. Koontz, an Assistant Tennis Pro at the Country Club of Virginia, noted “a few of the CCV members were really bringing the fire with the cheering which really meant a lot to me.” Obviously Koontz has played hundreds of tennis matches in his lifetime, but this one in particular gave him a little extra energy to take the second set with all of the support in the stands.
Blaine Davies, a former high school tennis teammate at Deep Run, was in the stands living every point with Koontz. “The coolest part of watching Hunter play was that I know it had to be inspiring for any Richmond kids in the crowd to see someone from our area competing at a professional tennis tournament.” To that point, Koontz hopes he can inspire the juniors he works with at CCV to reach their tennis goals and cultivate the next generation of greats in his hometown. Working with CCV Head of Junior Tennis, Mason Wright, Koontz focuses on junior league play and game-planning clinics to help youth excel on and off the court.
While Koontz couldn’t hold off Millots in the third set he was “happy those that came to support got to see a fun match with some exciting points” at his first professional tennis tournament.
Davies, who recently joined the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section staff as a recreation programs assistant, was smiling ear to ear as Koontz walked off that court. “What sticks out for me the most is how lucky I was growing up playing tennis in Richmond. Hunter was such a supportive teammate; he created a strong team culture and helped everyone improve.” Koontz may not realize the impact he has made in his local community with each individual he has come across on the tennis court. Luckily, when asked about his five year plan, Koontz responded “I would like to think I will be in Richmond teaching tennis and helping as many people as I can.” Also on the agenda is marrying his fiancé, Madison, in June 2019. “Things could look a lot different in five years. Perhaps I will have started to work on Hunter Jr.’s hand-eye coordination by then…”