Athletics Media Services
Davy Sum makes tennis look easy.
Whether he's ripping a crosscourt passing shot or dropping a perfectly-placed volley for a winner, Sum always seems to exude a quiet confidence - and a feeling of being in control.
"This guy never panics," said teammate Ondrej Kralik, a hint of wonder in his voice. "He's so calm on the court and just makes the game look so easy. He always seems to play the ball exactly where it needs to be played and is thinking about his next shot."
Over the last three and a half years, Sum has served, rallied and volleyed his way to the top of the Campbell record books. The school's all-time wins leader with a record of 108-29, Sum has earned six Atlantic Sun player of the week awards over his career and earned a national singles ranking (No. 112) this spring.
The senior from Strasbourg, France, owns an unblemished 20-0 overall record this spring and has claimed first-team All-Atlantic Sun honors in each of the last four seasons. He was a unanimous choice as the 2011 A-Sun player of the year in voting by league head coaches.
His game, according to head coach David Johnson, features a litany of strengths.
"He sees the court and uses it very well," said Johnson. He spreads the ball around and creates openings and opportunities for himself. He is a definitive all-court player - he can stand and rally from the back of the court and he can create opportunities from the back where he can come to net and finish.
"He manages the point well and doesn't give a lot of free points away in the process; the combination of that is what makes him so successful. I don't think there's a definitive shot you point to - it's the whole arsenal."
Sum credited his stellar play and smooth movement to improved consistency on the court.
"I don't think I make as many mistakes as my opponent," said Sum, who loves to watch Novak Djokovic's matches. "In tennis, some days you're going to feel like you made a lot of mistakes and some days you're going to hit a lot of winners. Another key part of my game is my speed, footwork, and agility on the court - there's never a day where I say, 'Oh, I was so slow on the court today.'"
Sum's versatile and well-developed game may in fact be his biggest weakness, according to Kralik.
"His only weakness is maybe that he doesn't have that one huge weapon," said Kralik, who shares an apartment with the Frenchman. "He can beat you with a serve, or a forehand, or a volley, and doesn't rely on one go-to shot. But his weaknesses are so small; they're very difficult to see on the other side of the net."
With Sum being able to make adjustments himself during matches, Johnson doesn't need to spend much time providing insight.
"He's certainly progressed to the point where he's well aware of his capabilities," said Johnson. "He has a good knowledge of where he is in his game and he does a good job of going out and applying that. He's the full package - the results speak for that."
One of the areas Sum feels he has improved the most in since his freshman year has been his commitment in the weight room. He works out virtually every day, and his fitness has become an advantage - a sentiment echoed by Kralik and Johnson.
"Even with all those results, he has a very big appreciation for hard work," said Kralik. "He really works hard every day, especially in workouts."
Johnson added that Sum's increased levels of fitness have helped him add more power and pace to his ground strokes.
Perhaps even more impressive than Sum's on-court results, however, is the way he's adapted to life off the court. The Frenchman had only visited the United States once before coming to CU - and that was a 2006 two-week trip to Boston, an entirely different environment than Buies Creek.
Sum's advisor, Lionel Kremers, scoured a number of U.S. schools to find a home for Sum, and he eventually decided to attend Campbell without seeing the campus or Johnson in person.
He was attracted by the large number of international student-athletes on Campbell's roster, as well as the opportunity to compete in a top singles position for the Camels.
He's one of nine foreign-born players on CU's roster this year.
"Just being so far away from your family is hard at the beginning," Sum said, adding that he talks to his family once a week by Internet video chat. "Everyone speaks another language and you're learning a new school system, but the fact that the team was international was really helpful. We all had to go through the same things coming here - leaving home and making new friends - and playing every day with my teammates has been fun."
Sum, who is majoring in business administration, will graduate in May and is preparing to take the GMAT in hopes of attending graduate school - if he doesn't pursue a professional tennis career.
"The main reason why I came here was because I could have a degree in four years and play tennis at a competitive level," said Sum, his French accent very evident. "My parents and I always agreed that school was more important than tennis, and right now, I really don't know what I'm going to do."
Beginning a professional tennis career is very difficult on players financially, as they seek funding and sponsorships, so Sum is considering several U.S. graduate schools including Elon and Jacksonville.
Whatever path Sum chooses in the future, he will be missed.
"It's been an honor to live with him," said Kralik. "When you walk in and see all those awards on the shelf, you know you're living with a great athlete. But he's not only a great athlete - he is an incredible person. Without a doubt, he's one of the most humble and respectful people you'll ever meet."
Johnson agrees with Kralik and knows he will have a difficult task finding someone to replace Sum.
"Beyond the results and the recognition, he's a class act," said Johnson. "He's a great student, he's well-liked by all of his teammates - he's the quintessential student-athlete. He's been the cornerstone of our program the last four years. The fact that he's gotten better has made us get better and we're in the best position that we've been in a number of years.
The 2011 A-Sun Player of the Year knows that this year presents his final opportunity to cement his legacy at Campbell and garner a conference title.
"I know that I cannot give up now," said Sum. "It's my last year, and I want to make it the best."
Nick Woods is a senior communication studies major from Fayetteville, N.C.