Adults receive training from former pro

Retired professional tennis player Taylor Dent, second from right, offers advice about playing doubles to attendees Friday at a clinic he is teaching at Bookcliff Country Club.

More than a dozen adults were laughing and sharing stories Friday night like they just experienced a childhood dream of playing on the professional tennis circuit.

The 15 adults from the Grand Valley won’t get that opportunity, but they got a little taste of it during a tennis clinic instructed by former tennis professional Taylor Dent at the Bookcliff Country Club.

Dent provided doubles technique advice and stepped in to play a couple points against the adults who paid $125 apiece to get instruction.

“It’s a real treat for Grand Junction to have someone that was ranked No. 21 in the world and hit with him on the court,” Stacey Hayward said. “How often does that happen?”

The men, in particular, were thrilled to take on Dent’s serve, which still reaches 140 mph at the age of 33. He reached 147 mph during his playing days on the Association of Tennis Professionals tour.

“You can’t react to it, it’s so fast,” longtime Bookcliff Country Club member and player John Elmer said. “The ball has so much spin on it, it is amazing.”

Steve Irion admitted Dent’s serve was too hot to handle.

“If it came right at me, I would not have been able to get out of the way,” Irion said.

Dent hit a kick serve to the 6-foot-8 Irion, and even that serve bounced so high and away from him he couldn’t reach it.

“He hit a kick serve to me and I’m returning it up here,” Irion said, putting his hand above his head to show the height. “He said he thought he hit it about 140 to John.”

Dent won four singles titles on the ATP tour. He has defeated players such as Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt, both former No. 1 players in the world.

Dent will instruct two camps for junior players today. Each camp is four hours. It is open to boys and girls at the intermediate and advanced levels.

“What a special treat for the juniors in town to have a role model of someone that has played in all four grand slams,” said Jennie Aubert, who participated in the clinic. “Even just to see him serve the ball and hit it is so inspiring for them.”

Bookcliff Country Club teaching professional Caleb Marquardt played against Dent on the USTA national junior circuit. Marquardt, 34, invited Dent out for the weekend. Dent and his father, Phil Dent, have a tennis academy in Fountain Valley, California.

“Caleb is really interested in teaching the modern game, which is much different than the game we learned way back when,” Dent said. “I’m out here to back him up. This is the way the guys are playing on the tour. Sometimes its tough to see on TV.”

Dent plans to talk to the junior players about mental and physical toughness and building confidence in their ground strokes, serves and volleys.

“I want to impart a trajectory to pursue,” Dent said. “First of all, I want the kids to have a good time. Second of all, I want them to have a confidence in where shots should go and what they should look like. We’ll talk about mental toughness and physical toughness, and I’m not talking professional tennis, I’m talking in college.”

Dent played Marquardt five games before the clinic. Marquardt was able to return most of Dent’s serves, but Dent won 3-2.


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