Scott Gerber photographed the action photos and most, but not all, of the state qualifier group photos. Interview


OTZ Interview with Joey Thomas

OhioTennisZone's third pre-season interview is with defending OHSAA Division I Singles champion, Massillon Jackson's Joey Thomas.

Thomas is an Ohio State recruit and he is Ohio's highest ranked high school player on (5-star and 37th ranked among all U.S. seniors), Universal Tennis Rating (rating of 12.86), and he will start out as #1 on's Top Players List.

Joey Thomas
Jackson's Joey Thomas - Click to enlarge
He comes from a big family where he is one of seven children. Thomas credits his speed to his father, David, who ran track, played tennis and basketball, and swam. Mr. Thomas also played college tennis for Walsh. His mother is Jennifer. All of his brothers and sisters are also tennis players. Starting with his oldest sibling and sister, Ashley reached States as a senior in 2008, then Louie (States as a junior in 2009), Kelsey (States as a senior in 2011), Maria (Districts as a senior in 2014), Emily (photo) (States as a sophomore in 2015), and Danny (who has not yet reached States, but hey, no pressure). Louie Thomas (photo) is also the coach of the Massillon Jackson team.

Thomas played travel basketball, travel baseball, and he swam before concentrating on tennis in the sixth or seventh grade. He started playing tennis around four or five years old. He still enjoys playing basketball with friends.

When asked about his individual goals, Thomas, of course, wants to win the State title again but he added that "I really want to try to focus on really getting ahead in all my matches this year and not falling behind. I sometimes do that where I start out pretty slow." He also added that he wants to work on "staying focused on every single point, getting ahead quickly, staying with that lead, and finishing matches off before they go three sets. I want to be able to not just beat a kid but really take them down easily, so that's my main goal to get to a different level."

While Thomas has high aspirations for his individual play, he was even more determined about his goals for the team. "I really want the state team title this year. That is my main goal this year out of everything. Seeing how hard our team has worked. We play all year and everybody works so hard and everybody is so dedicated. And, we've all grown up together. There are teams out there who haven't known each other for their whole lives. It's just an unbelievable feeling when you look at your team and you've known them since we've been about four years old." This core group includes Anthony Kanam, Jake Zalenski, Mitch Sloan, and of course, his brother, Danny. He's also played different sports (i.e. travel basketball and baseball) with this same group.

Joey Thomas
Jackson's Joey Thomas - Click to enlarge
Thomas' final three choices for college were Ohio State, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and he visited each of these schools. He selected Ohio State because he "thought it would be the best fit." He really wanted the challenge that Ohio State presented. "It's the best tennis. I'd get an amazing education. It's two hours from home." He added that "the challenge of playing with such good players and having an awesome coach - there is nothing more that I can ask for." At this point, he is unsure if he will red-shirt, but he'll have a better understanding of where he stands once he gets to Ohio State. Right now, he is leaning toward red-shirting.

Academically, Thomas plans to major in business (perhaps finance) at Ohio State and he has already been admitted into OSU's Max M. Fisher College of Business. He also plans to go to law school. At Massillon Jackson, he took two AP classes - AP Calculus and AP Psychology. According to the Gerber Analytics Ohio Graduation Test results (2013-14), Jackson is yet another high performing Ohio high school.

When it comes to his tennis game, he views his speed and footwork as weapons. He's comfortable hitting from both wings, and his favorite shot is his inside-out forehand. Most recently, he has been working on his serve's speed and location and his return of serves. When he really connects with his serve, it is in the 115 mph range.

In his down time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, playing basketball, and watching sports. He rarely uses social media and he does not use Twitter.

During last year's high school season, he was 28-2 with losses to Kenston's Austin Barr and Nathan Griffin (now at Notre Dame). In the past 12 months of USTA play, his record is 42-11 with wins over Hilliard Bradley's Mitchell Thai, Kenston's Austin Barr, and Sycamore's Noah Stern. He also had a loss against Kenston's Nico Mostardi. The Mostardi loss forced him to re-examine his mental approach to his game. He now stays positive during matches and he is forward-looking rather than dwelling about points he has lost. Has his new approach worked? So far. Since the Mostardi loss, he has won 21 straight matches against tough competition.