Monday, March 22, 1999
By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Wei-Yu Su led Taiwan to the Division II Davis Cup
title five years ago when he was playing as a
professional in his home country.
Su on top
BYU-Hawaii's Wei-Yu SuBy Jerry Campany
is the top-ranked tennis
player in the state
Special to the Star-Bulletin
After relying on his natural gifts to propel him to victory, Wei-Yu Su has had to use his mind.
Su, 23, is Brigham Young-Hawaii's top tennis player and has won at every level he has played. After four years in Hawaii, he is on top again -- but growing restless.
The Hawaii Pacific section of the United States Tennis Association has Su ranked No. 1 in its men's open division, suggesting that he is the top player in the state, collegiate or pro.
For Su, it was a natural progression to the top. Ever since he was 8 years old and a school tennis coach coaxed him onto a court and put a racket in his hands, the 6-foot-2 Su has been a winner. And it has come relatively easy.
"The coach asked my teacher if she knew any athletic kids who wanted to join the team," Su said. "I was tall, athletic and left-handed so they liked me."
Su's introduction to the game sparked a love affair that he says has not yet reached its peak.
"I really love the game, there is so much more to it than hitting the ball," Su said. "It is about everything: skills, fitness and mental toughness."
Su was blessed with every attribute needed for tennis success, allowing him to beat more practiced players on athletic ability alone. That is not to say that Su hasn't put in a lot of practice time, it just hasn't seemed like it. He feels most comfortable on the tennis court.
Seasider coach David Porter was in Su's native Taiwan speaking to physical education majors in a university when he hooked up with Yu-Hsien Liu, a former player who introduced him to Su.
With Su's accomplishments on the court, Porter didn't even have to see him play to know that he could help the Seasiders.
"Wei-Yu was the junior national champion, so I knew he could play," Porter said. "My only question was 'can he speak English?' "
Su could speak English and wanted to come to Hawaii to improve on it, as well as to experience a different culture. It almost proved to be his undoing as a tennis player. He could cruise through matches against top Asian competition with relative ease, but his new surroundings and tougher competition affected his tennis.
"When I first got here I was No. 3 in the nation," Su said. "But I was overwhelmed by the new environment and I struggled with the language. I thought about it all on the tennis court and it made me play bad."
'Bad' for Su is excellent for most others. Porter immediately threw Su into the No. 1 spot and he responded with an 18-10 record. But it was 10 more losses than Su was accustomed to.
So Su went to work, improving to 18-6 before breaking out to notch a 36-5 record the past two seasons.
Su is among the many small-college dreamers who plan to chase professional athletic glory, but he is different because if pro tennis doesn't work out, he can easily fall back on his other first love, computers.
Su is majoring in information systems, and he has spent nearly as much time with a computer mouse in his left hand as a with tennis racket. His father owns a computer company in Taiwan and Su aspires to help him run it someday, but that dream can wait, tennis cannot.
"Wei-Yu is at the age where he has to see how far he can go or he will always wonder." Porter said. "He has an excellent chance of being in the top 500, and he can crack the top 200 if he stays strong mentally."
But this is a dream for Su, and dreams are not made of mediocrity. He had spent six months as a professional at the age of 18 and led Taiwan to the Division II Davis Cup title over Iran while ranking No. 900 in the world. He is proud of his performance, but it will not do the second time around.
"I will play one or two years," Su said. "I will either be in the top 100 or find a job."
The fact that Su will be able to devote his life to tennis without balancing schoolwork has him excited about the possibilities.
"That is when I can find out how good I can become," Su said. "All of the time I spend studying now can be put to use practicing tennis."