Athlete in focus: Martha Brennan

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Oak Park and River Forest High School senior and tennis superstar Martha Brennan is on track to go to state for the third time.

 Brennan has been on the OPRF varsity tennis team all four years of her high school career. She played a variety of sports at a young age but stuck with tennis and since then has bloomed into an amazing tennis player with unmatched skills.

Her current coach, Fred Galluzzo, who’s been coaching at OPRF for more than 21 years, said,  “She’s got the mobility, the drive, intensity and personality to play the game.” These skills continue to make her into the tennis player she is today. 

At a young age, Brennan played multiple sports, from softball to hockey, and she stayed with them all until she suffered from a mild concussion right before fifth grade. Afterwards, she put her full focus on tennis. 

Brennan started her tennis journey at 10 years old at TenandFit, a local fitness center specializing in tennis. She began working with several different coaches in both private and group settings. She’s been coached by her long-term coach, John Morlidge, for more than six years. He has continued to “form (her) into the player (she) is today,” Brennan said.  

She constantly practiced with her dad, friends and teammates to become the best athlete she could be. Throughout her tennis journey, Brennan has had support from both her parents and teammate, Basma Raja, who has now graduated from OPRF. “They’d kind of just talk me through it when it (tennis) gets tough,” Brennan said of her support system.

The internal struggles of tennis can be challenging. “It’s so independent and mentally draining because it’s all on you,” Brennan said, noting the constant pressure of feeling like “a bad player because of a bad day.” Brennan learned to grapple with those difficulties because “You feel so good about yourself when you do well because it’s all you and you know you did it,” she said. 

Growing from those weaknesses has led Brennan to become an inspiration and mentor to other tennis players. “Her strength as a player leaves me in awe. Watching her groundstrokes is like looking at art,” said sophomore Alice Caldwell, another member of the OPRF varsity tennis team. Caldwell wishes she “could hit as hard and as consistently as (Brennan).”

Currently, Brennan plays singles and doubles, both of which got her to state her freshman and junior year. Making it to state is one of Brennan’s greatest accomplishments within the tennis sphere: “I really didn’t expect to do that,” she said.

These victories influenced Caldwell’s conduct on and off the court, “Martha is an amazing person because she can play so powerfully…and aggressively…then be the sweetest girl afterwards,” Caldwell said.

Brennan continues to display winning qualities that will set her up for success this season: “She has the desire and grit to compete at state again,” Galluzzo said, adding, “she has come out with an intensity and a fire and a talent and an ability in the game that she’s really developed all on her own.” 

While Galluzzo has loved watching Brennan grow, he has also enjoyed watching her and her teammates form each other into the players they are now, with the ability, skill and talent they have each developed. “The way everyone adapted was fabulous,” he said. 

In the future, Brennan hopes tennis will remain an important aspect of her life. But, as of now, she’s looking at colleges with good club teams, keeping in mind her career goals as she hopes to pursue something involving politics or sports. As for this year’s tennis team, Galluzzo feels confident about this season, because they’re “in a really good place with a really successful group of people,” he said.

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