Tennis joy

After winning Little League titles, Monument duo has fun at Taco Bell

Despite losing his match to Blake Andersen, 12-year-old Brandon Lovato enjoyed his match Tuesday in the Taco Bell Western Slope Open. Lovato also won a state Little League title and is going to regionals on Aug. 3.



Twelve-year-old Blake Andersen, fresh off winning a state Little League title for the Monument 11-year-old boys, returns a shot during his 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brandon Lovato at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open.



Screaming coaches were gone, state Little League baseball championships had been attained and, now, Blake Andersen and Brandon Lovato were two kids laughing and swinging on a tennis court.

Something was different for them at the Taco Bell Tennis Western Slope Open. For the first time in a few months, it was time to just play. Not to win first place — neither could hope for a title in the consolation match on Tuesday of the Boys 12 Singles division.

It was a break from baseball. On Sunday, Andersen helped the Under-11 Monument Maniacs to a 17-1 Little League state championship win over North Boulder; Lovato’s 12-and-under Monument Major Boys won a state championship over South Boulder on Monday to earn a trip to Waco, Texas, for a regional tournament.

So, congratulations were in order. And they were ordered during the boys’ first water break. Then it was back to the only court where play was in progress outside the Elliott Tennis Center at Colorado Mesa University, to hit, to laugh at mistakes, to indulge in freedom of instruction until Andersen won, 6-4, 6-3.

“There was nobody to yell at me,” Andersen said. “Dad yells at me (in baseball), but he doesn’t know how to play tennis. So if I messed up, he didn’t know if it was good or bad.”

Lori Andersen, Blake’s mother, said this was true about her husband, Jack Andersen, who watched the match.

“(Jack) didn’t know what to do,” she said. Then she laughed.

It was the ultimate respite for Blake Andersen.

Unlike the majority of the Taco Bell Tennis competitors, many of whom were juniors competing in quarterfinals at Canyon View Park and boys and girls at CMU, Andersen and Lovato already were buzzed by the thrill of success.

Andersen said he hit the first home run of his life in the state championship at Cherry Creek, a first-inning, three-run shot over the center field fence. He also pitched four innings, allowing one earned run.

Lovato, on the other hand, did something a bit different in his state championship: He legged out an infield hit.

“I don’t know how,” Lovato said. “I’m real slow. I guess I run good in mud.”

And he smiled without a hint of shame. This the boy who, in the tennis match, watched a lob from Blake land just inbounds by the baseline. Lovato expected it to be out of bounds. So, last second, he did the only thing he thought he could do — swing backward, as if lifting an empty bucket high over his head. He caught a piece of the ball. It went high. And fell straight down.

In a tournament rife with history and tennis talent, from local high school and college standouts to those still playing beyond 50 years of age, Andersen and Lovato, who has only been playing competitively for two weeks, were perhaps a reminder that tennis is fun, no matter the skill level.

And the more backward shot attempts the better.

Said Andersen: “I yelled at (Brandon), ‘Make sure you hit it forward next time.’ ”

TACO TIDBITS

Third-set heartbreak: Charlie Madison found himself on the losing end of a 36-point, third-set tiebreak in a Boys 14 Singles consolation match.

Enoch Kropp won the match 4-6, 6-4 and 19-17 in the third set.

“I was thinking, ‘OK. ... this is going on pretty long now,’ ” Madison said.

After after a short dinner break, Kropp was on the court again for a mixed-doubles match.

No warm-up needed.

“I’d just come off the court, so I was pretty ready,” Kropp said.

Wacky Wednesday: Semifinals in the Juniors division (ages 10-18) begin this morning, with finals taking place Thursday morning.

Also on Wednesday, action begins in: Mother and Son; Mother and Daughter; Men’s 3.5 Doubles; Men’s 3.5 Singles; Women’s 3.0 Singles; Women’s 3.0 doubles; Mixed 7.5.


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