Multiple injuries prevented junior tennis player Chris Auteri from reaching his full potential during his first two years at Lehigh. Auteri turned his collegiate tennis career around this spring.
Originally from Staten Island, New York, Auteri grew up playing tennis, soccer, baseball and basketball. He attended Staten Island Academy, where he chose to focus on and devote more time to tennis and soccer.
But it wasn’t until the end of his high school career and the beginning of his collegiate years that Auteri began taking tennis seriously.
“Coming into college and just being able to focus on one athletic activity kind of made me realize that I really could maximize my potential in tennis and have less injuries,” Auteri said.
However, Auteri faced injuries during his freshman and sophomore seasons, postponing his breakout.
During his first year as a Mountain Hawk, Auteri had a blood clot in his left arm. He underwent surgery and consequently sat out the majority of the season. The injuries continued into his sophomore year when Auteri partially tore his labrum, causing him to miss six weeks of the spring season.
Now, in his third year at Lehigh, Auteri has managed to stay healthy and become a force to be reckoned with on the court. Until facing Army’s junior David Mitchell on April 14, Auteri was the only player in the team’s history to remain undefeated with an overall record of 11-0 in singles victories. He’s now 12-2 on the season.
He credits much of his success to his change in mindset.
“I still kind of let my emotions get the best of me sometimes, but I’ve definitely gotten a lot better at handling them, and I actually think that’s been a huge factor of why I’ve been winning,” Auteri said. “I’m honestly having more fun this year compared to playing any other year. I don’t really think about winning or losing. I just kind of go out there and play, and whatever happens, happens. It takes off a lot of pressure.”
Graduate assistant coach Sam O’Neill said Auteri’s new mentality has played a key part in his growth as a player.
“He’s much less outcome-oriented, and I think that he just believes in getting x and y done during the match and the outcome will kind of take care of itself,” O’Neill said. “If he can do that and manage his emotions and just hit some goals within the match, he’ll be successful.”
As an upperclassman, Auteri has assumed more of a leadership role on the team.
Senior Dylan Karchere-Sun said Auteri has naturally matured into a role model for the team’s younger players. Karchere-Sun said Auteri takes the role seriously, and he thinks it has positively affected Auteri’s level of play.
“Going into matches, he’s mentioned how he’s an emotional player, and that’s definitely true, and I think he’s done a really good job this year at channeling all that energy into, for the most part, positivity on the court and just being aware that there’s younger people looking at him and everyone else,” Karchere-Sun said.
The coaching staff praises Auteri’s transition from a player ridden with injuries to a standout leader for the Lehigh men’s tennis team.
“He’s been a fantastic role model,” O’Neill said. “He’s a guy who comes in, practices really hard, handles all of his stuff — all the little things that coaches appreciate not having to remind their players of. He just takes care of all those small details, and that is hugely appreciated. I think that’s really started to rub off on other players on the team, especially the underclassmen.”
While Auteri has progressed since his first year as a Mountain Hawk, he understands it’s not just about him. His focus is on his team.
“What I focus on is, ‘How can I make my teammates around me better?’ It’s not really all about me,” Auteri said. “I could win, but if everyone else loses, then that doesn’t really mean anything. It’s kind of just being able to elevate not just myself, but those around me also.”