He knows where he’s going. Just by taking a quick look at how he carries himself, you can tell he is a leader, not a follower. It is one of those intangible qualities that he calls “quiet confidence.”
To get an idea of the type of person Jordan Bohnen is, one need look no further than how he got his start in tennis. While most kids generally begin finding love for a sport while playing with classmates or neighbourhood kids, Bohnen found it right at home. He started playing tennis in his backyard with his dad when he was four or five years old.
Bohnen was always into trying lots of sports. In addition to tennis, he played hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball while growing up in Toronto. After the summer of Grade 8, he went to tennis overnight camp and realized the sport was the one for him.
After following his statistical ascent through the rankings during his days in junior competition, he now leaves that duty to eager family members.
“My little brother now, he checks it every day,” he says, referring to his ranking.
With family as his top priority, having his brother, 14, and his sister, 17, share his love for sports has certainly helped keep him active.
Bohnen’s love for sports should not be confused with a one-dimensional personality. Here at U of T he is the vice-president of a student-run club called the Global Knowledge Foundation.
Outside of his activities at school, he plays a big part in organizing events at his local synagogue. He says keeping religion in his life has helped him enjoy life more and given him the right values on the tennis court.
“Family gives me a good foundation,” says the second-year student. “I’m not willing to sacrifice integrity for personal gain.”
He explains that the laid-back approach his parents took towards his enthusiasm for tennis has helped him enjoy it more and given him a better relationship with them. After competing at a high level for so many years, Bohnen has avoided the burnout that has victimized so many other players of similar talent who played for the wrong reasons.
“They always encouraged me to do what I enjoyed,” says Bohnen of his parents.
A substantial level of modesty dominates his demeanour and has helped him continuously improve as a player and as a person. The feat from which he draws the most satisfaction is not the recent 44-match winning streak he had broken in October, but a sportsmanship award given to him at under-18 Nationals.
In his time away from the court, Bohnen has taken an interest in medicine. The human biology major is considering a medical career, and has come to terms with the fact that it could cut into his court time.
Nevertheless, he still harbours thoughts of winning grand slam tournaments.
“I would love to win Wimbledon,” he says. “It’s the classic tournament. Prestigious. Best of the best. I would get a lot of personal satisfaction from it.”
He appreciates opportunities that have been afforded him through the sport. Last summer he travelled to China to compete in the World University Games and he has also competed in Israel at the MacAbee Games.
The 20-year-old insists there is no secret formula to winning matches. Practising as much as he can and being relaxed before a match have keyed his success on the court.
“Mental confidence comes with having played a lot before,” he says. “I like to go into a match feeling physically prepared. You get more mentally tough by playing more matches.”
Those close to Bohnen describe him as having a good grasp on when it’s appropriate to use his intensity and when to scale it back.
“He’s pretty intense on the court. Quiet and serious,” says teammate Mark Renneson. “He’s definitely very confident when he plays. He knows what he’s capable of doing…. When he’s off the court and he’s relaxed, he’s a real funny guy to be around.”
Reflections of his favourite player, Patrick Rafter, are evident in his own game. His speed supports an efficient serve and volley game.
Complementing his agility is a quickness that has been honed by a background in the martial art discipline of shotokan.
“I love it,” he says unabashedly. “It’s the best thing for me. It definitely provides more mental relaxation and spiritual calmness [than tennis].”
Whether in school or sport, the self-described perfectionist appears to have a smooth road ahead.
Photograph by Simon Turnbull