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Dima Pankov’s Journey to Dominance


Dima Pankov is a grinder. He has worked extremely hard over the past 5 years to rise to the top of the Seattle high school tennis world. Just a year after leaving soccer behind and fully committing to tennis, Dima debuted his high school career as the number one singles player for West Seattle High. As a freshman. Let that sink in. He hasn’t lost a step since then, as he has continued his astonishing improvement over his three years at West Seattle. He cemented his legacy as a West Seattle legend in his junior season last spring, where he dominated opponents, carrying the team to its second division title in as many years. He then became the first West Seattle player to reach the Washington State High School Open in over a decade, where he finished 9th. But Dima is not satisfied with his historic year. He is determined to make his senior year his best yet and leave a legacy of success behind at West Seattle. 


I recently sat down with Dima to break down his successes and what motivates him to be the best. I started by asking Dima what his experience with tennis has been thus far. He immediately showed his humility and his love for the game. Rather than commenting on his obvious successes, he instead talked about tennis’ positive influences on his life. “I love the game. I play every day with anybody. Friends, family, a stranger I meet. And it’s honestly become a huge part of my life,” he remarked with a joyful tone. It was clear that he lives, breathes, and eats tennis.  


After our introduction, I started to get into some of the more hard-hitting questions. The high school tennis season is just a few months in the spring, but for Dima it is a 365-day grind. I asked him what he does during the offseason to get ready for the season. He replied with a laundry list of activities, saying, “I practice at Goren Academy [a tennis training facility in Bellevue]. I also play with some of the members of the team, Yuto Shingai, Van Hilgendorf [and,] Duncan Monnin. I also hit the gym with a great guy, Ben Lewis. Other than that, just stay on the courts, make sure to stay warm, stay loose, and relaxed – ready for the season.” Keep in mind that all quotes were taken verbatim from Dima himself. This offseason grind, although summarized in just a few sentences, is no easy task. Dima was humble about the work he puts in, but I was determined to get to the bottom of his struggle to stay motivated.  


I prompted Dima further, asking him how challenging it is to stay on his intense grind. He immediately jumped to his issues with the rain. Tennis relies on dry courts, which, in the cold Seattle winters, can be hard to come by. “Every time I come home, I’m like ‘I’m gonna go play tennis and then it just starts pouring.’ But I have to fight through it. I have to go sometimes and just serve the ball even if the courts are soaked.” What an inspiring image for our readers. One can picture Dima out in the rain serving balls to an imaginary opponent while the rest of us are cooped up inside staying warm. This is exactly what separates him from his competitors. Many minutes into the interview, I saw Dima’s first sign of weakness. “Some days I really just don’t want to go, but I remind myself I have goals set for this year, and that keeps me motivated,” Dima said. That’s what his coaches, teammates, and college scouts love about him. Dima possesses a constant drive to achieve what he knows he is capable of. 


So, what are those goals for this year? Dima was very excited to rave about his teammates. “Our top four [Dima, Yuto, Van and Duncan] have been practicing a lot, we’ve got good freshmen coming in, which is good, means we have a bright future ahead. I’m excited. I’m really excited. I think we can go really far and I hope we win.” Dima provided this answer with a hunger in his eyes. That same hunger is present every time he takes the court. He demoralizes opponents with a patient approach, where he simply pushes the ball over the net and then capitalizes on his opponent’s mistakes. His opponents leave the court devastated, sometimes in tears, while Dima simply shakes their hand and moves on to the next match.  


Although Dima has his eyes solely set on this season, I was curious to find out what’s next in line for the great tennis player. When I asked him what was next in his tennis career, he chuckled and thought about it for a second. “I’m not sure yet,” he admitted. “I do hope to pursue it in college…I definitely hope to stick with the game, keep practicing and keep improving, even after my high school days are over.” Regardless of where his future takes him, one thing is clear with Dima Pankov: his effort and grind will ensure him success. 

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