FORT MILL — Back in December 2012, Nation Ford High School’s No. 1 boys’ tennis player, Madison Ott, attempted to hit a backhand shot during practice, felt a sharp pain in his back and fell to the ground.
The then-senior had felt nudges of discomfort stemming from his gallbladder for his entire high school career, but nothing compared to this.
“I had gotten attacks every month or so where I would get sick and throw up,” he said.
After four months of chiropractic therapy and gallbladder removal surgery, Ott is rehabbing his back in the hope that he’ll feel “100 percent” to continue his tennis career, this time at Clemson University.
Ott’s gallbladder, which he says was inflamed, likely pushed up against his back, and ultimately kept Ott off the court for nearly four months. The senior, who just graduated from Nation Ford, is cautious about his return to play.
“It would be difficult, I would have to play really well,” Ott said. “I would have to train really well, and my back would have to be 100 percent.”
Ott, in the hopes of salvaging his senior season, worked with a local chiropractor to get back in the starting lineup. When he could return in mid-March, he paid back the loyalty of head coach Billy McKinney in spades, losing only one region match to finish with a 7-1 record and earned his second successive spot in the state championships.
“The one thing we’ve learned is to never count Madison out,” McKinney said. “We never really thought there was a chance he could play this season, but as the year went along, he was the Madison of old.”
Despite playing through pain through the spring, the 18-year-old eventually underwent surgery late last month and faces four more weeks of rest before he can resume practice. At that point, it will be up to how his back feels in determining whether walking on at Clemson is the best decision.
“It’s recovering right now and if it feels good, I might try to walk on, but I’ve got to give it some time,” he said.
McKinney says he has coached Ott since the player was nine years old and has confidence that Ott can make it at the collegiate level.
“With his will and his desire, if he puts his mind to it, he’ll do it,” McKinney said.
Ott is hoping to study biochemistry at the Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College.