8A - Thursday, April 4, 2013
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Barrett Franks: A Kiwi Wolverine
By JASON RUBINSTEIN
Daily Sports Writer
The sports that come to mind
when one thinks of New Zealand
are cricket, rugby and sailing -
most definitely not tennis. In 100
years of Kiwi tennis, only one
New Zealander, Tony Wilding,
has ever won a grand-slam title.
Since then, there have been no
New Zealanders, men or women,
ranked inthe top 10 professional-
ly. But one member of the Michi-
gan men's tennis team would love
to change that. Junior Barrett
Franks, a native of Christchurch,
New Zealand, is currently play-
ing the best tennis of his colle-
Tennis isn't the sport of choice Junior Barrett Franks is currently playin
for most Kiwi children. Most
play cricket as toddlers and then while back home there were
move onto rugby when physically about one or two kids to practice
ready. Franks's father pressured with."
him to learn squash because he Ultimately, Franks decided
hoped to play together. that the United States' fusion of
Near his home, there was a athletics and education was too
squash and tennis center. Squash, much to pass up.
a smaller racquet sport, requires Hailing from over 8,000 miles
an extraordinary amount of skill away, Franks' recruiting process
and is much too difficult to teach was out of the ordinary. College
to a young child. coaches normally watch players
Due to this difficulty, Franks's in person before contacting play-
father instead enrolled him in ers. But, Michigan coach Bruce
tennis classes with the hopes of Berque reached out to Franks
improving his hand-eye coordi- purely based off online results.
nation. When Berque found out
But Franks never left. Franks would be playing in the
Tennis became his sport of Orange Bowl - a major junior
choice, and he never went back. tournament in Bradenton, Fla.
Defying the New Zealand norms, - he immediately went down to
Franks's friends took a particu- watch him compete.
lar interest in his tennis career, After an initial meeting, they
often joking with him about it, set up an official visit where it
while still providing huge sup- was game, set, match. Franks
port. was sold and became the newest
Franks' talent was widely member of the Wolverines' 2010
known in New Zealand. Such recruiting class.
talent earned him a spot on the
nation's junior Davis Cup squad. ***
Players on a Davis Cup roster
are generally considered a top- Freshman year can be very
five player within the country challenging - new classmates, a
because of the limited roster tougher course load, new teach-
spots. ers and new facilities. These
"Before coming to Michigan, unknowns become magnified for
this was probably one of my best student-athletes, who also adjust
achievements," Franks said of to new teammates, coaches and
making the Davis Cup rostr. compet'iion. Butfo Franks,
"Playing for Michigan is one these c anges were perhaps big-
thing, but playing for your coun- ger than the game of tennis itself.
try is something else. It's some- The United States meant a new
thing I'll always cherish." lifestyle.
"A huge adjustment was the
*** pace of life and how much big-
ger everything is in the United
The Davis Cup added a new States," Franks said.
dimension to Franks's tennis From sporting-event crowds
game because it allowed him to to class sizes, everything seemed
be seen on an international level larger and faster to Franks. It
for the first time. But he knew was especially evident to Franks
that if he wanted to continue to after he attended his first football
succeed at the highest level, he game in the Big House. No stadi-
needed to leave New Zealand. ums of that size exists in New
"The quality of practice is bet- Zealand.
ter," Franks said. "At school, you But one aspect gave Franks the
get eight or nine guys to push you hardest time - deadlines. Every-
around and are at a similar level, thing from tennis practice to
is more individually based, and I
think he gets more motivated to
compete for the team than him-
Franks feels that if he has the
opportunity to help other people,
it's as equally as important to
individual results. He judges his
personal success off the team
"Given a choice, I'd rather lose
every one of my matches and have
the team win every week than
win every one of my matches and
have the team lose," Franks said.
Franks's effort and ability to
lead got him elected one of the
team's two captains and he has
been well received in that role.
"He brings a lot of energy,"
Rossi said. "One thing he does
really well is that he speaks up.
If he doesn't like something, he'll
be on you about it. He is a real
leader and makes everyone bet-
ter by it."
Added Bernstein: "He com-
municates well with the team
and has good relationships. One
of the best things is his ability
to hold people accountable. He
speaks up well in a respectful
way, and if things aren't on track,
he looks to improve it as best he
can. It doesn't matter if it's a drill,
a set, a practice or a match - he's
always out there setting a good
Franks grew up with plenty
of constructive criticism from
coaches and even his parents. If
something was wrong with his
attitude or game, it was never
sugarcoated for him. He realized
that this was helping him become
better and knew he could help
others the same way.
As an international player,
becomingcaptain was something
Franks never imagined before
coming to Michigan because he
had never played a team-oriented
And though Franks might not
boast the team's best record, his
team-first mentality doesn't go
unnoticed. Franks has become
known to Berque as a "relentless.
Currently, Franks is playing
some of the best tennis of his
career as he has the second-most
dual-match wins this season,
trailing only senior Evan King.
Franks cites his confidence
as the key to his recent success.
His ability to stay on the court
and fight through long points has
been critical. Playing three-set
matches can be mentally drain-
ing - the victor is the player who
simply wants the win most.
"He's confident now and earns
every win," Bernstein said. "He
puts in the work and makes sure
to improve during the week. And
come match day, he is one of the
most intense guys I have seen.
"Freshman year, he didn't
embrace the long matches. But
now he wants the match-to-
match to come down to him and
the pressure to be there. He is
just a very fierce and fiery com-
petitor that guys have trouble
Franks's leadership could help
Michigan while it tries to win a
Big Ten Championship.
But even while trying to win a
title in the United States, he will
certainly never forget his New
g some of the best tennis of his career.
class times has deadlines, which
is something he wasn't used to.1
In New Zealand, going late to
practice never had consequences.1
With time, however, Franks has
had an easier time acclimating.
The tennis program helped;
Franks transition to the Unit-
ed States, and there was great1
excitement within the Michigan
tennis community for Franks's
Redshirt sophomore Justin
Rossi took it upon himself to
ensure that Franks felt comfort-
able. Rossi extended an invita-
tion to Franks to live with him
before the school year started -
an offer Franks was thrilled to
The gesture by Rossi was one
that Franks will be forever grate-
"They took care of me and wel-
comed me when I was so far away
from home," Franks said. "At that
point, I didn't have my team-
mates, and having a home that
was open to me was really invit-
ing and helped me adjust."
The pair went on to be room-
mates freshman year.
Franks immediately became
one of the team's hardest work-
ers, constantly working to per-
fect his strong forehand, refining
his serve and gaining the mental
fortitude to compete in the Big
Ten. Despite a tough fall season,
Franks's receptiveness to coach-
ing was evident by his spring-
"By the time the dual-match
season came around, he started
doing really well," Berque said.
"He was playing a lot at No. 5 and
won lots of matches."
But despite the success, there
was one aspect in particular of
Franks that caught Berque's eye.
"The pattern that has been
consistent with him is that he
is much better in the (spring)
than the fall," he said. "The fall
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