WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The State Tennis Finals were played on Thursday in West Hartford. On the court is a remarkable story of a player who had open heart surgery a few months ago only to return to the court two weeks ago and is now playing in the finals. It’s the story of a young man’s determination, drive and of course, love of tennis.
Weston High School junior Steven Dampf is thrilled to be playing in the Connecticut State Tennis Finals. It’s a doubles match that even he can’t believe he is a part of.
“I didn’t expect to make it this far, in the states,” said Dampf.
Not even three months ago, 16-year-old Steven Dampf had open heart surgery.
“I was born with cogenital heart disease and bicuspid aortic valve,” he said.
He and his family had been living with the fact and the fear that one day his heart would no longer be strong enough to keep him alive. He had an aneurysm at age 10 and it became imperative. Dampf needed immediate surgery in February. His doctor told him he may never play tennis again. But, don’t tell that to a young man with a heart full of love for the game of tennis.
“I was out of the hospital on the fourth day of recovery, extremely soon,” he said.
“I credit his coach. I think he made a promise to Steven he could play in the states if his doctor signed off on it.”
With his doctor’s consent and Dampf’s drive, his parents still can’t believe they are watching his strong form return: a powerful backhand, quick moving feet and that lightning fast serve.
“I’ve cried every time he plays tennis,” said Vanessa Dampf, Steven’s mom.
“He walked onto the team two weeks ago, had some warm up matches and here he is in the finals,” said Richard Dampf, Steven’s dad.
It’s not a surprise to Damf’s coach.
“Steven is a fighter. He works as hard in the classroom as he does on the court. It’s part of his DNA,” said Gary Meunier, Weston High School Coach.
Damf is having the best GPA year of his life. He’s a straight-A student. He’s also on the school varsity cross country team and is an EMT.
He credits his family, his coach and his team for his rapid recovery.
“I haven’t had that much trouble. I was out of shape, not exercising for months. I have a good partner getting me through everything,” Dampf said.
This all-state tennis player ranked 14th in Connecticut serves up this advice to anyone facing what could be seen as one of life’s faults:
“Don’t let things like this get you down. Stay determined,” he said.