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Annandale student Mitchell Frank reaches third round at U.S. Open | People

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Annandale student Mitchell Frank reaches third round at U.S. Open

Very few top athletes stick around their hometowns once they hit the big time. Junior tennis star Mitchell Frank is an exception. Frank, age 16, grew up in Annandale and still lives here with his parents.

He attended Wakefield Forest Elementary and Poe Middle School and is a senior at Annandale High School. Although with his busy tournament and training schedule, he takes all his classes online - English, geosystems, world history I, and AP statistics. Frank says he devotes five and a-half hours a day to tennis practice and fitness.

After competing in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., earlier this week, Frank was back in Annandale, attending the Atoms home football game Friday night with his friends.

Frank won the first two rounds in the Junior Boys Singles event at the U.S. Open, beating Darian King of Barbados (6-4 and 6-1) and Oliver Golding of Great Britain (6-4, 6-2). In the third round, he lost to Hungarian Marton Fucsovics (4-6, 1-6).

This was the second time Frank played in the U.S. Open, and he says “it was a really good experience. There was less pressure this time. I felt very at east playing there, and I knew what was at stake.” A highlight of the tournament for Frank was the chance to hit the ball with his favorite tennis player, Roger Federer.

Frank played in the French Open for the first time in 2009 and has played in seven grand slam tournaments including Wimbledon, the Australian Open, Yucatan World Cup, and Casablanca Junior Cup. Since last December, the 6' 0" 165-pound right-hander has been among the top 20 tennis players 18 and under and has been ranked as high as No. 5.

Frank’s drive to become a top-ranked tennis player is “entirely his doing,” says his father, Richard Frank, who adds, “Neither my wife nor I had any aspirations in tennis.” Mitchell picked up his first tennis racquet at age 4, and he and his parents discovered he had a natural gift for tennis. But Mitchell preferred playing football until he was 11, “when he decided to focus on tennis and realized he would have to do it full time,” Richard Frank recalls.

Mitchell worked with coach Vinh Do at the Fairfax Racquet Club for three years and “had a good deal of success at U.S. Tennis Association events, his father says. As his game improved and it became clear he had a chance to compete internationally, he began working with coach Vesa Ponkka at the Junior Champions Tennis Center in College Park, Md. Mitchell says he is working on “technical stuff to clean up my game so I can take it to the next level.”

He has endorsement deals with Head for racquets and KSwiss for clothing. Richard says he and his son’s next priority is choosing a college for next year. Colleges with the top tennis teams have made offers, and Mitchell is currently listed No. 1 on the national college recruiting list among high school boys in the class of 2011. “I would consider going pro if I do super well this year and it makes sense to go pro,” Mitchell says.

Mitchell doesn’t know of any other tennis player at his level that is still associated with a hometown high school. But he believes it is important to maintain some balance and have friends outside of tennis. “I enjoy being in this area,” he says. “If you're only all about tennis, you don't know how to react around other people.”