A Visit With Max Schnur '11

The pain is gone. Actually, the pain has been gone for a while now. The rehab? Over and done with, at long last. The touch? It’s returning. The desire? Never left.
So it goes with Max Schnur, a student-athlete at Collegiate (’11) and Columbia University (’15) and an accomplished, much-decorated tennis player who has taken his talent and passion for the game to the professional ranks.
At Collegiate where he was a member of Cum Laude, Schnur earned six varsity tennis letters and served as captain in 2010 and 2011. Five times, he contributed to team championships (Prep League in 2009-2011, VISAA in 2009 and 2010). Four times, he earned first team all-league and all-state honors. Three times, he was league and state player of the year as well as first team Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Metro. His senior year, the T-D named him player of the year in Central Virginia. He was also highly successful on the local, regional, and national junior tennis circuit.
Schnur continued his excellence at Columbia where he earned Academic All-American recognition, helped the Lions win Ivy League championships in 2014 and 2015, won (with Ashok Narayana) the NCAA indoors doubles title (fall 2013), and earned all-league honors in doubles four consecutive years.
“To win the national (doubles) tournament was great,” he said, “but if we hadn’t won the two team titles, I don’t think I’d be happy looking back on my college experience.”
Which speaks volumes about the 6-5, 205-pound righthander. In what many perceive as an individual sport, Schnur is the quintessential team guy. Perhaps that’s why doubles play has become his professional calling.
“I played team sports all my life,” he said. “I played basketball and soccer. I went to summer camp where I played everything else. I got a taste in high school of how much fun it was to win as a team. I was lucky enough to be part of a great culture at Columbia. The guys on the team were my best friends. Winning a team title lifts everyone in a way you can’t experience by winning individually.”
A couple of weeks after his college graduation, Schnur first played professionally. In the past two-and-a-half years, he’s competed in both ATP Challenger and Futures competitions around the globe: Italy, Australia, Finland, South Korea, Canada, Israel, and the Dominican Republic.
The pinnacle (so far) came this past summer when he and his doubles partner Cheng-Peng Hsieh from Taiwan competed at Wimbledon. Though they won two qualifying matches to reach the main draw, they fell 5-7, 6-1,7-6 to Marein Matkowski and Max Mirnyi in the first round.
“It was really an enjoyable experience,” Schnur said. “You’re trying to discuss strategy with someone you can’t communicate with perfectly (in English), but you still understand each other. We played a bunch of practice sets and took note of what was working. To an extent, it worked out.”
Alas, Wimbledon was Schnur’s last competitive tennis. His right elbow had been acting up for several months since he made a technical change in his serve. He figured the pain was merely inflammation that would eventually abate. He worked with the tour physiotherapist. He attempted to play through the discomfort. He sat out a couple of tournaments. He even rested it, no small task for a highly motivated competitor. Finally, he saw Dr. Benjamin B. Bedford, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine practitioner in Scarsdale, NY.
The diagnosis: medial collateral tendonosis. In short order, Schnur had the first of three weekly PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections. The pain soon subsided, but the recovery and rehab to allow the elbow to heal has been slow and arduous.
“I could have kept playing,” he said, “but I wasn’t able to practice my serve much. If I was older and didn’t have the potential for a lot of years left, I might have tried to come back earlier. There’s no rush. It’s important to be completely healthy.”
During his hiatus, Schnur devoted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons to physical therapy. Tuesdays and Thursdays, he went to the Columbia Tennis Center and assisted with his old team. He worked out on his own each morning, watched as much film as possible to pick up pointers and refine his game, caught up on his reading, and spent time with friends and family. He also tried his hand at meditation.
“Haven’t quite found it yet, but it’s on the way,” he said of his meditation practice. “I think it’ll be really helpful when I’m back on tour and have to quiet my mind.”
About a month ago, Schnur’s doctor has cleared him to compete. He recently participated in a training camp in Orlando. There was some tenderness in his elbow, but no pain.
“Knock on wood,” he said. “I feel good.”
Schnur’s return, he hopes, will be the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas in late January. He’ll play doubles, his event of choice. He can’t wait.
“I’m definitely looking forward to being back on tour and in a group setting with guys who are also very hungry to achieve their goals,” he said. “That environment is very motivating.”
After that? Time will tell, of course. New York is home now. Nothing would please him more than securing a spot in this year’s U.S. Open. In fact, he’s like to make it an annual event.
“If I make my final goal just to play in the U.S. Open,” he said, “I think I’d be selling myself short. That would be a disservice.”
First things first, though. After much work and reflection, he’s back. He’s healthy. He’s grateful. He’ll embrace the challenges, as he has so far. He’ll savor each experience.
“I hope (dealing with injury) will make me more appreciative and give me a different perspective,” he said. “Tennis is a great game. I just enjoy playing.” 
     -- Weldon Bradshaw
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