Baylor tennis player continuing years-long religious understanding

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Jimmy Bendeck, a once closed-minded atheist, arrived at Baylor focusing solely on improving his tennis game.

"I knew they had a good business school and I was happy about that, but it really was a tennis-based decision," Bendeck said.

After his junior year, an internship in New York City guided him to a belief that his immediate future would revolve around numbers, hence the reason for his double major in finance and entrepreneurship.

With that in mind, Bendeck jokingly told one of his coaches prior to the first tournament of his senior season that if he reaches a doubles ranking in the top five, he'd go pro.

A No. 1 ranking along with an unfamiliar partner, Sven Lah, turned the tongue-in-cheek remark into a victorious statement.

"We weren't friends the year before," Bendeck said. "We lived in the same house and didn't talk to each other. It wasn't a good relationship. We both intentionally tried to make our relationship better over the summer."

The Baylor duo started the year with eight straight wins, which is rare for players who are unaccustomed to another teammate.

But they didn't stop there. Bendeck and Lah's run continued into the NCAA Tournament, losing in the quarterfinals to Mississippi State's Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini -- the No. 32 ranked duo -- to conclude their season with a 28-7 record.

"We both learned and got better and let our egos go with our relationship, and it got better," Bendeck said. "Without him, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Present day Jimmy Bendeck has not made an atheist-to-Christian transition. Rather, the previously stubborn individual has learned that beliefs different than his should be explored, not ignored.

"My viewpoints are always changing. I'm not trying to get somewhere with my faith, I'm just trying to learn as much as possible and be as open as possible," Bendeck said. "The people who do have faith at Baylor and are really good Christians haven't pushed it on me and have been themselves."

Aware of his stubbornness, Jimmy vowed to listen more with the help of one of his teammates, Will Little.

"Just because he believes in something different than I do doesn't mean that I have to presume bad things or presume that he's truly not a good person," Bendeck said. "I was on a different path than Will, and learning to understand that. We both did an unbelievable job of really accepting each other and helping each other."

Bendeck is on track to graduate in August, and his plan is to compete in a few tournaments in Mexico before heading to New Haven, Connecticut, to play in a larger tournament in September.

Click here to help Bendeck in his quest to become a professional tennis player.