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


OTZ Interview: Hilliard Bradley's Mitchell Thai

The Thai family has been a large, friendly force in Central Ohio tennis for a decade. As Hilliard Bradley’s Mitchell Thai assessed his goals this year, it had two elements -- he wants to do well for himself -- and for his family.

Thai Family & Friends
@ '16 CDAB Districts - Click to enlarge

Thai lives in a close-knit extended family in southwest Columbus. “My parents came over from Vietnam during the Vietnam War as refugees. They came over when they were nine years old and my grandparents worked really hard to make a living over here. I am a second generation Vietnamese American”, he said. Closely affiliated with the South Vietnamese government, the Thai family fled South Vietnam in 1975. The family has lived in close proximity to each other ever since, growing up as neighbors. They all played tennis, loved tennis, and excelled in tennis. Thai began playing when he was only three years old.

In terms of Thai's goals for this season, he stated, “There is a lot of pressure to uphold the family name. My sister [Lauren] and my cousin [Ashley] won States and My Linh [Li] and Kim My [Li] [cousins] won States, too. So going into this season, it’s definitely been my goal, especially as my senior year, to win States in singles.” Thai also mentioned, “I just want to thank my family for being such a good tennis family. My grandparents have a tennis court and we would all go over there when we were younger, and they were the ones who got me started in tennis. It would be a great honor to win States for them. It’s not only for me but also for them.” In addition to winning States, Thai hopes to compete at the USTA National Championships this year in Kalamazoo. (Thai played at Kalamazoo in the B16's.)

Mitchell Thai
Thai @ '17 Bradley Dubs Tourney - Click to enlarge
Just in case a family score card is needed (or for a brief trip down memory lane), his cousin, Khang (Do) Thai, was a States Qualifier for Bishop Ready in 2008. Cousins, Kim My Li and My Linh Li, were State D2 Doubles Champions in 2009 for St. Francis DeSales. His sister, Lauren, and his cousin, Ashley, were State D2 Doubles Champions in 2010 for Hilliard Bradley. My Linh Li finished third at States in 2011 and she was a State Finalist in Singles in 2012. (Click links above to view the OHSAA Draws.) Thai has two more cousins, Vinh Thai and Quyen Thai, who currently play for St. Charles Preparatory.

Thai's father is Dzung (pronounced "Young") and his mother is Thuy (pronounced "Twee"). Thankfully, his sister [Lauren] has the same name as our daughter so I have that figured out.

Thai’s style of play is to stay glued to the baseline and to dictate play using his forehand to create opportunities. Over the summer, he worked on his serve (which would be clocked in the 110mph range), improving his shot selection, and getting to the net. Thai is one of several central Ohio boys who participates in clinics with OSU Coach Ty Tucker.

As shown in his OTZ Player Profile, Thai is undefeated so far this season, losing no more than three games in any of his matches. Thai had only two losses last year with one of them coming in the first round of States. Thai was leading 5-1 in the third set against Solon's Vlad Rotnov before Thai's leg cramps began. He lost 6-3, 6-7, 7-5.

Thai will be going to Denison next fall for college. He selected Denison for a number of reasons. Denison offered him with an early matriculation program to get into dental school. He will attend Denison for three years and then transfer to Case Western’s dental program for four more years. Thai mentioned, "My sister was one of my biggest influences in choosing to go into the field of dentistry." Lauren participated in the same program, but she went to Toledo (playing tennis for them) before going onto Case Western. To prepare himself for college, Thai took eight AP and eight honors classes at Hilliard Bradley. Thai favors a math/science curriculum and will major in biology.

Thai should be able to contribute to the Denison tennis line-up early-on. He has a 4-star rank, placing him only behind University School’s Paul Gota in's Ohio senior class ranking. Thai has a Universal Tennis Rating of 11.95, and he is currently ranked third on the OhioTennisZone Boys' Rankings. There will be more than a few familiar faces on Thai's team next year. Solon's Vlad Rotnov and Granville's John Purnode will also be playing for Denison. St. John's Jesuit grads, Kevin Brown and Ryan Issa, are currently on Denison's team.

This probably goes without saying, but going to Denison also means that Thai can play closer to home so that he can remain near his family. "Nothing rivals my family and I'm so glad that I was raised in such a deep rooted culture." Thai added, "I consider my cousins to be my best friends."

When not playing tennis, Thai, as well as many of his cousins, enjoy target shooting and traveling. They also scuba. He also uses SnapChat.