If you have anything negative to say about Kobe Bryant, don’t say it around Brandon Wai ’07.
He just might up and walk away.
The varsity tennis star almost walked out of his interview once he realized his passion for the Lakers and their star was not a shared feeling. Although the threat was lighthearted, his admiration for the athlete is serious. According to his teammates, he will be mad the entire day if you make a Kobe joke. But Wai endures the constant heckling of his teammates, because he admires Bryant’s drive and determination.
“Every time he steps out on the court, he’s determined to give out 189 percent,” Wai said.
Similar to Kobe, the Berkeley junior believes in giving his all on the tennis court. This philosophy has proved successful thus far, considering Wai’s impressive athletic record. As a sophomore, he earned the honor of first team All-Ivy in singles and doubles and won the Princeton Invitational and the Yale Invitational, going 6-1 in the Ivy season. This past fall, he won the ITA Northeast Regional Tournament at Dartmouth, which qualified him for the National Indoor Tournament in November. He entered this spring as 33rd in the nation, although recent losses and a nagging ankle injury have dropped him to No. 79. But regardless of his numerous tennis achievements, Wai remains a normal guy.
Wai said he believes his sophomore year jumpstarted his pattern of success.
“The biggest change happened last year as a sophomore,” he said. “It gave me a lot of confidence, and it just translated through this year.”
Now, after coming off a recent Princeton victory, the tennis player’s focus is directed towards Ivy League success this spring.
This should be an achievable task since focus is Wai’s main strength. Generally, he is quiet before games, because he is working to enter his “focus mode.” In fact, his only two pre-match requirements are a tight racket and a focused mind.
Teammate Matt Feldman ’06 said mental toughness makes Wai stand out.
“Talent can only take you so far,” Feldman said. “He has a very high level of talent, but he is able to focus better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Fellow Bulldog Josh Lederman ’09 noted that Wai has the ability to enter an opponent’s head and stay there, calling Wai a “natural-born killer” on the court.
This fighting instinct and love of competition has delivered many comebacks for Wai, who uses several mental tactics to keep himself motivated. When he is losing a match, he draws on his experience to remind himself that when a player is up, he feels pressure to stay up. Wai then takes this opponents’ weak point as a competitive edge. He tries to keep the opponent on the court until the competitor begins to make errors, supplying the opportunity for Wai to reenter the match.
“Get out there. Keep on fighting. Keep trucking. You never know what is going to happen,” Wai said, explaining his mentality.
The athlete handles his victories and his tennis career with a casual happiness. His older sister, Stephanie Wai, said people like to see him win, and they don’t begrudge his success because he is not obnoxious about it. Feldman echoed similar sentiments.
“He believes in himself, that’s for sure,” Feldman said. “He’s not the cockiest guy, but he doesn’t have to be. It just translates into wins.”
And the tennis court is not the only place to see Wai winning. He is quite proud of his beer pong skills, jokingly claiming it to be a natural talent as he adjusts his yellow Corona baseball cap.
Whether it is across the beirut table or across the court, having fun and being with his teammates and Sigma Nu brothers is an important part of life for the multitalented player. Wai said the team is really close and gets along really well.
The feeling is mutual considering the praise given by his teammates.
Feldman thinks so highly of him that he claimed, “Brandon Wai should be able to get any girl at Yale.”
Whether this is true or not, any female would have to split her time with Jack Bauer, because Wai is an avid watcher of 24. Calling it the greatest show of all time, he makes his friends stay quiet throughout the entirety of each episode and enjoys Jack Bauer fact quotes such as “Jack Bauer won a game of connect four in three moves.”
Perhaps one of his favorite quotes best describes all that is Brandon Wai. From his focus on the court to his enjoyments off the court, Wai is embodied in the simple words of Keanu Reeves.
“Pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory … lasts forever.”