May 6, 2008
With the sun beating down on the Scott Speicher Tennis Center, Florida State sophomore Jean-Yves Aubone continues to hit tennis balls. While the temperature reached the mid 80’s on a typical spring day in Tallahassee, neither the heat nor the humidity would keep the Seminoles number one player off the court. Forehands down the line, cross-court backhands into the corner, volleys and serves each shot made with the precision of a player who has every intention of winning each point. When it is all said and done an extremely tired, yet enthused Aubone admits that despite the rigorous workout, he would not want to be doing anything else.
“This is where I want to be,” Aubone said. “It is the end of the season and the NCAA’s are so close, I want to put in the extra work now and there isn’t much time left to put it in. I’m just more motivated now.”
The 2008 season has been a breakout year for the Miami, Fla. native. Aubone has posted a 17-5 singles record to go along with a 14-10 record in doubles with partner Clint Bowles. Those marks are good enough to rank him No. 13 and No. 15 in the country, respectively, making the All-ACC performer one of four players ranked in the top 15 in both singles and doubles nationally. His No. 13 position in singles is the highest in program history and earned the sophomore All-America honors heading into the NCAA Tennis Championships. Not too bad for a sophomore although it was not completely unexpected from the coaches.
“I thought he’d be an elite player,” FSU head coach Dwayne Hultquist said. “That [No. 13 ranking] puts him in elite company and it shows just how good of a player he is and how he’s been consistent all year long. He’s been showing up every day.”
“I never put any expectations on where I would be,” Aubone said. “I just said I wanted to work as hard as I can and wherever I end up I know I can do good things.”
While his 2008 success may come as no surprise, the All-American’s sophomore campaign did not start the way he imagined. Aubone posted a 4-3 record in the fall including second round exits at the Southern Intercollegiate and All-American Championships. Despite the poor results, the Seminoles best player did not hang his head, but instead worked even harder and took some of the self-induced pressure off. The results made all the difference.
“My mentality changed, I feel like I put a little too much pressure on myself to do well in the fall and with each loss I put more and more pressure on myself,” Aubone admitted. “When the fall finished I just let things come to me a little bit. I’m going to put the work in and whatever happens, happens and I’ll just be happy that I was able to put everything into it.”
Aubone’s dedication and effort paid off with his signature victory of the season at the 2008 ACC Championships. In the semifinals he came up with a huge win against Miami‘s third-ranked Daniel Vallverdu. He won the first set in a dramatic tie-breaker which saw the sophomore save three set points and finally win the set on his only set point of the tiebreak. He lost the second set 6-2 and was down a break twice in the third and deciding set. However, Aubone came back each time and won the final three games of the set to get the win. It was his first win against a top 10 opponent and signaled that he had arrived as one of the best players in the college game.
“It was one of the most difficult matches that I’ve played in college,” Aubone said. “He’s [Vallverdu] such a good player, the conditions were tough and the nerves were getting to me a little in the third set and I was getting a little tired. I knew the team needed me so I said to myself that I was going to be out there as long as the team needed me to take some pressure off my teammates and I ended up getting the win.”
“I’m really proud of the way he won his match against Miami,” Hultquist said. “He adjusted his game a little bit to come up with the win. I like the fact that when the match gets tighter he plays bigger. He doesn’t hold back on his shots and he doesn’t expect the other guy to give it to him.”
As the NCAA Championships begin with regional play in Tallahassee, Aubone will be counted on by the Seminoles to play each team’s best player. While the competition will get tougher with each passing round, both teammates and coaches have confidence in the fact that their number one player is going to win no matter who is on the other side of the net. That is the kind of confidence the Garnet and Gold can afford to have since the All-American puts in the work on the court, tirelessly hitting ball after ball because one more shot is the difference between being special or just another player. Certianly Aubone has proven that he has crossed over into the elite level and each precise stroke on those 80 degree spring days proves that he is not planning on going back.