Mert Arabaci spent only a single year playing tennis in the United States, but he left his mark.
Prep players around Oklahoma won’t forget his name any time soon.
Or maybe they will because they the matches were quite short.
The Stillwater High star tennis player didn’t drop a match or even a set all spring, rolling to the Class 6A No. 1 singles state championship in Oklahoma City last month.
Arabaci finished his junior year of high school with a perfect 35-0 record.
He was named the Stillwater News Press Spring Sports Male Athlete of the Year for his success on the court this year.
“It was pretty good,” Arabaci said. “Also, it was pretty hard. American players are really good – they’re always practicing and always playing in tournament. They are really good, so it was really fun.”
Arabaci rolled through his Oklahoma prep opponents. He entered the state tournament with a 31-0 record before breezing through four more matches en route to his state title.
At state, he defeated Sand Springs’ Logan Bateman 6-1, 6-0 in the opening round. Next came Owasso’s Blake Carter, who fell 6-0, 6-1.
In the semifinals, Arabaci disposed of Westmoore’s Ben Richmond 6-2, 6-3. Arabaci defeated Edmond North’s Brogan McLaughlin 6-2, 6-2 for the state title.
“It was a pretty hard tournament for me,” Arabaci said. “We had a lot of rain. It was not good weather. It was my first and last state championship for me, but it was good for me. I’ll always remember that tournament.
“I just love playing tennis and trying to win trophies. After the match, I celebrated the state championship. I hung out with my friends.”
Arabaci admits he tries to play every point hard, and believes that anyone who does that can be good. He said playing hard every point paid dividends this spring.
He also grew as a player during his year in Stillwater.
“Before I came here, my game was more consistent,” Arabaci said. “When I came here, I learned I have to play outside and I have to always hit fast. I also learned to stay relaxed and focused every point.”
Arabaci will soon be returning to his home country of Turkey, but he will always remember his one year in Stillwater. It’s a place he will miss.
“I did make a lot of new friends,” Arabaci said. “Stillwater High, I have friends there. I also have some at other high schools. It was pretty fun.”
Arabaci came to Stillwater because his father, Ramiz Arabaci, is a visiting scholar at Oklahoma State University. Arabaci hoped to remain in Stillwater for his senior year, but he will be returning to Turkey to finish his education before possibly returning to the U.S. for collegiate tennis.
“We’ll see,” Arabaci said. “I don’t know what I’ll do. I want to come to OSU or OU.”