Howard Payne University sophomore tennis player Dominic Denardo looks to finally prove himself Friday, when he expects his fractured hand to be at full strength.

Denardo transferred to HPU last summer and hoped to prove himself on the court until a broken hand sidelined him or forced him to play at a much lower level than he anticipated.

“I wasn’t getting much playing time and I wanted to feel needed,” said Denardo, who outsizes many of his opponents standing at 6-3. “That’s why I came here. I’ve had a few injuries which have been a setback. In the offseason, I had a hairline fracture — one in my metacarpal and one in my carpal on my dominant hand. I had to play through that and I haven’t had the results I wanted.”

With his broken hand, Denardo went from serving the ball at more than 100 miles-per-hour to serving underhand just to put the ball in play. To him, the frustration sets in when players he feels have far less talent trounce him. That frustration may finally come to an end Friday when the Jackets host LeTourneau in the home opener.

“This next match coming up Friday will be the closest to healed I’ve been,” Denardo said. “I’ve gotten in four matches. When I went to the matches I felt like people were looking down on me thinking, oh that guy’s not really that good. It’s true, I haven’t been that good because I’ve been injured, but I’m excited to go and show what I’m truly capable of.”

Denardo currently majors in business administration with the hopes of remaining in tennis long after his college career ends. He credits his passion to his grandfather who could not play due to polio but had a deep regard for tennis, especially players like John McEnroe.

“He could never play it because he had polio, but when I was 6 years old he signed me up for my first tennis lesson,” Denardo said. “I always loved it, but never got completely into it until my freshman year in high school. He saw me play last year. My whole family lives in Phoenix so it’s hard to get up here, but I would love for him to see me play one of these days.”