By Kristy Koehler, November 1 2018 —
The University of Calgary Dinos have a big draw in former professional tennis player Andrew Ochotta. He played in the Australian Open, once practised with former number-one-ranked player Novak Djokovic and has travelled all over the world playing tennis. Due to strict eligibility rules imposed on former pro players by the United States’ collegiate league, the NCAA, Ochotta is attending school at the U of C.
Ochotta started playing tennis at age three, playing his first tournament when he was only eight. He considered a foray down south to attend university in the U.S. and play in the NCAA but instead put his studies on hold and went pro. He was professionally ranked for three years as a player before going two years without playing a tournament, losing his pro ranking after 12 months of inactivity and a shift to coaching.
Now 25, Ochotta is back at school after his time off as a player. He’s working on a business degree at U of C and has brought his coaching expertise, as well as his skills as a player, to the Dinos tennis team
Ochotta is from the Greater Toronto Area. He drove across the country to look at the U of C campus and played in a tournament while here. Ochotta loved the campus, had success in the tournament and joined the Dinos.
Now, after only three tournaments back in the game, Ochotta ranks 51st in the country for singles and 43rd for doubles. His record is 14–4 — a stat he seems to have surprised himself with.
“That’s a pretty good stat — to be ranked that high out of everyone for only three tournaments,” he said. “That record is a solid record.”
Still, Ochotta is humble, despite having been asked for autographs after games.
Photo Courtesy Kelsea Gorzo
“I don’t think too hard about the rankings,” he said. “I’m just playing my game, you know, as it should be — the ranking follows.”
Does he wish he had played NCAA and then gone pro? Ochotta says no, as the road he’s taken may not have been linear, but it has been great.
“This path has taken me places I hadn’t imagined,” said Ochotta. “Did I think I’d be playing tournaments in India and South Africa? It’s been such a cool experience. I never regret going after the dream, even though I might not have reached where I wanted.”
He relishes being part of a team and is focused on helping the Dinos grow.
“Going pro, you don’t have that team mindset,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun. I feel like I can help the guys on our team a lot. With my level of tennis I think they’re inspired to do well.
“I’m focusing on our team. Most importantly, the guys on our team, how do I get their games better? Ninety-five percent of my focus is, ‘how do we get our team better?’ ”
Ochotta and his Dinos teammates still compete in tournaments away from the Dinos, as individuals, working on their ranking and improving their game to bring back to the team.
“Tennis is a tough sport. It’s not good to be stagnant,” he said. “The better you get, the tougher it gets.
After he graduates, will he go pro again? Ochotta doesn’t rule it out, motivated, he says, by his love of the game.
“I try to think back to my early passion for the game, without thinking of all the obstacles that are irrelevant,” Ochotta said. “I understand myself better as a person and as an athlete. I know how to prepare, how to handle pressure situations better and I’m a better coach for myself. I’m encouraged.”
Ochotta not only plays for and coaches the Dinos, he also coaches outside of the university at the Alberta Tennis Centre for their high-performance program. Students can cheer on Andrew and the Dinos next at the University Prairie Regional Championships at the Alberta Tennis Centre on Feb. 15 and 16, 2019.