California girl hones skills in GJ
Victoria Thek had 929.15 miles between her and a chance to improve at the sport she loves.
The 17-year-old recently left her home in San Luis Obispo, California, for Grand Junction, where she’s staying with relatives in order to play in the Mesa County Junior Tennis League and work on her skills.
Thek’s love for tennis has been short but sweet. She only started playing one year ago, when she and three friends joined their high school team on a whim.
“We didn’t have a sport to do in the fall, so we were like, ‘Oh, we should play tennis, it seems like fun,’ ” she said. “I loved it so much, and I got pretty good.”
Grand Junction doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for a California girl looking to up her tennis game, but Thek’s mother, Susie, knew firsthand the experience would be a positive one.
Susie Thek came to Grand Junction when she was 14 and trained with her uncle, a former Central High School tennis coach. They developed a close relationship, and her tennis game improved drastically.
“When the opportunity came up, she didn’t hesitate at all to send her daughter out because she had gone through the same thing,” said Tracy Hughes, Susie Thek’s cousin.
Thek is staying with Hughes, and though they didn’t have a close relationship prior to this summer, Hughes said they are getting closer as time goes on.
Because of their relationship, Hughes has helped Thek with tennis.
“As a coach, you really push people, and as a coach you push them as far as they can go,” she said. “You really do have to get to know a player well in order to coach them well.”
Hughes said she can’t believe Thek has only played one year of tennis prior to this summer, because “her strokes are so pretty,” but she also knows where Thek’s game can use improvement.
“Mostly we are just working on where to stand in the court and then also her shot selection, how to approach the ball, how to come in and what to do in doubles, but mostly we are working on her singles,” Hughes said.
Right now, Thek’s goal is to become her high school’s No. 1 tennis player next season, and she believes playing in Grand Junction will be a huge help.
“There is a lot of really good competition here,” she said. “A lot more than in my hometown.”
Thek is also forming good relationships with other tennis players in the Grand Valley. Thek describes herself as being relatively shy, but in order to make friends in Grand Junction she has come out of her shell.
“I was kind of shy, but then I realized that I needed to make friends and get good acquaintances, and everybody has been super nice,” she said. “I love it.”
Thek is beginning to settle into Grand Junction’s tennis community, but there are things she is yet to get used to.
She said the climate is much hotter and drier than in her hometown, but the biggest challenge for Thek is being away from her mother.
“It’s actually really hard. I’m super close with my mom, and it’s so hard not having her here to cheer me on, but I have tennis to keep me distracted,” she said. “I’m getting used to it all, and I think I’m going to like it.”