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Link: Tennis, optimism helping former UK player Emery fight off cancer

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Following UK Athletics, it's easy to get wrapped up in wins and losses, but every once in a while, you read something that puts sports back into perspective.

Jen Smith's story about former men's tennis player and current volunteer assistant coach Matt Emery is one of those, but it does so in a different way. Most such stories serve as a reminder of the insignificance of sports, but this one shows how powerful they can be.

Emery, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, returned to his alma mater with his wife, Sara, to get treatment at the Markey Cancer Center and coach under his father, Dennis. The two Emery's have helped lead UK to an historical season while Matt has battled his disease:

One thing that helps keep Matt going, helps sustain his smile, is seeing the success that Kentucky is having in men's tennis.

Dennis, the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, is having his best season in the 30 years he's coached at UK.

His team is No. 6 in the nation and went 11-0 for the first time in school history in SEC regular-season play.

"I'm just so happy for him," Matt said of his father. "It's really cool to see him have this success. He deserves it so much."

It hasn't been the easiest of years for Dennis or his wife, Brenda. While one son battles cancer, another son, Andrew, is overseas as a Marine (special operations) in Afghanistan. Andrew left for his second tour in January.

When asked if this season's success was somehow lessened because of the stressful things happening to those he loves most, Dennis quickly shakes his head side to side.

"It hasn't been bittersweet," Dennis said with a smile that looks a lot like his son's. "It's been really, really sweet."

Kentucky earned an at-large bid into this year's NCAA Tournament and will host the first two rounds starting Friday at the Boone Tennis Center.

Matt will be courtside with his father and assistant coach Cedric Kauffmann trying to help UK advance.

As a volunteer assistant coach, Matt has been invaluable, Dennis said.

"He's really good on the court and during the matches," Dennis said. "He's very perceptive. He played at this level. He played here in the SEC. He's young enough to understand the emotions of what's going on."

UK will open play in the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 3 p.m., but more importantly, Matt's prognosis for a full recovery is good.


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