Tim Berthier has had quite the tennis career at Menlo-Atherton. A four-year varsity player, Berthier steadily made his way up the Bears’ ladder, having spent the last two seasons as the team’s No. 1 singles player.
He teamed with Jack Jensen to win the PAL doubles title his freshman year, but lost to Carlmont’s Thomas Reznik in the 2018 singles final. This year, Berthier took a break from the juniors tournament circuit to concentrate on school and the high school season. The renewed focus resulted in arguably the best season of his high school career. Not only did he go undefeated against PAL competition during the regular season, he helped the Bears to their 11th straight PAL Bay Division title, and swept to his first PAL tournament singles championship. He then used that momentum to make a run to the semifinals of the Central Coast Section tournament, solidifying him as the Daily Journal’s Boys’ Tennis Player of the Year.
“(Winning the PAL title is) a good feeling. It felt good to finally win singles after having such a devastating loss (my junior year),” Berthier said. “It was nice to prove I still have it.”
Leave it to the ultra-competitive Berthier to think he had lost something off his game because when he takes the court he has only one thing in mind: win.
“A lot of things drive Timmy,” said M-A head coach Tom Sorenson. “I think he is more in the here and now and just wanting to compete and wanting to compete because it’s a challenge.”
The focus on his high school season helped Berthier put together a dominant regular season, appearing in eight of 12 PAL matches. He dropped only one set against Bay Division competition, beating Carlmont No. 1 Milad Shafaie 6-2, 4-6, (10-5). He won his other seven matches in straight sets, losing a total of 14 games.
He continued his dominance in the PAL individual tournament, sweeping through four opponents to win the singles title, again without dropping a set.
“I think one of the admirable things that I associate with Timmy is, I think he just embraces competition,” Sorenson said. “I don’t think he is after trophies or banners. … [After matches] he’ll feel good that he answered the bell.”
Berthier continued his roll in the CCS team and individual tournaments. He helped the Bears to the semifinals of the team tournament as the No. 6 seed, losing to No. 2 Bellarmine in the semifinals. He then duplicated that finish in the CCS singles tournament, winning his first two matches and taking a set from No. 1-seeded Luke Casper of Bellarmine, before falling 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. Casper went on to win the tournament.
“I don’t think he was disappointed at all,” Sorenson said. “Afterward, you’re not going to see a dejected person who has, in his mind, has failed to reach his expectation. You’ll see someone who will be satisfied with the effort. His prize … has to do with the effort and performance. The result will take care of itself. The guy he lost to was incredible.
“It’s all about the warrior expectation he has of himself.”
Added Berthier: “That was awesome. That (run to the semifinals) was something I really didn’t think I was ever able to do, to be honest. … It was an awesome showing.”
That drive, however, did not spill over into begrudging his coach or teammates when he was not in the lineup against a markedly inferior team. There may have been a time he was upset not playing a match, but his maturity put him at ease knowing it was benefiting the team now and in the future when he wasn’t in the starting lineup.
“Honestly, these last two years I’ve matured quite a bit. I’ve changed the way I do things. Freshman and sophomore years, I really wasn’t the same person I’ve become now,” Berthier said. “I liked when [Sorenson] put people in front of me (in the starting lineup). If I wasn’t playing, I want my teammates to have good matches and to play better players they might not, playing lower (on the ladder). I thought that was a good thing. What’s the point of (me) going and winning 6-0, 6-0?”
Berthier credits his time away from the juniors circuit for helping him reach a new level with the Bears. Not having to worry about preparing for a weekend tournament allowed him to give the Bears his undivided attention his senior season.
“It was my last year, so I just decided I might as well go all in. Be the best you can, play the best you can. I just played relaxed. I just played the game,” Berthier said. “For the team, I wanted to use my years of playing tournaments to help my teammates bring that competitiveness out of them, to bring that drive out of them.”
Berthier takes that internal drive and vocalizes it on the court. He would be the first to punctuate the air with a, “Let’s go Bears!” eliciting responses of the same from his teammates playing on the other courts. While Berthier was dialed into his match, he also kept an eye on the other matches going on around him and was always there with a word or two of encouragement.
“The one thing you know when he’s playing, he’s tremendously concerned about everyone, not just himself, and how they’re doing. He knows he will leave everything out there and he expects his teammates to do the same,” Sorenson said. “Timmy is an inspirational leader. He doesn’t do a lot of off-court leading. But he gets on the court and stokes up everyone. He leads in a fiery way. He’s very intent on making his teammates as excited as he is about going out and competing.”