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Spider tennis ace has his biggest win off the court

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RICHMOND, Va. --  The Bible tells us that Adam gave one of his ribs to create Eve.

How many of us would make the same sacrifice for something we love?

Richmond junior tennis player Jacob Dunbar set the school's single-season wins mark as a freshman.

He was set to be dominant again this year as the Spiders' number one player, but when the season opened at East Carolina last fall, Dunbar had to withdraw because of severe pain in his left arm and upper chest.

He was eventually diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a pinching of his veins that causes blood clots and can ultimately be fatal.

"It's a possibility," Dunbar explained recently during practice ahead of this weekend's A-10 tennis championships in Charlottesville. "Usually with upper extremity blood clots, the risk is lower. Serena Williams had the same type of thing, but it developed into a pulmonary embolism. It broke off and went to her lung. So that's the danger."

During this process, Dunbar also discovered he has a blood condition called Factor 5, which also made him susceptible to clotting.

He will have to be on some form of medication for the rest of his life.

He had surgery to remove the first rib on his upper left side to help alleviate the risk of this type of episode in the future.

"He has one of those mindsets that allows him [to think] 'What's the next step?'" his coach Ben Johnson said. "He doesn't really get caught up in the worry of it."

Despite everything he has been through, Dunbar's style, both on and off the court, has not changed.

"The discomfort from the surgery makes you tweak [your motion] a little bit," Dunbar said. "But there was never anything like 'You need to change this to prevent it further'. The whole point was removing [the rib] so you don't have to worry about it."

"Nothing different," Johnson added. "His approach has been fairly identical. He was extremely hungry to get back on the court since he took several months off. We kept having to remind him to be patient through the process."

Dunbar can set the school's all-time wins record at this weekend's conference championships and will attempt to do so with a much different perspective than he might have had a year ago.

"Tennis meant everything to me," Dunbar said. "Not that it doesn't now, but it's more of an appreciated love for tennis than it is a love for the competition. It makes me a little bit calmer and more relaxed."

"I feel lucky to be able to play again."