Holding serve

Former tennis pro Taylor Dent teaches youngsters mechanics of serving at camp

Former pro tennis player Taylor Dent, left, gives 14-year-old Isabel Manzanares some tips on how she can improve the form on her return on Saturday during a camp for young tennis players at Bookcliff Country Club.

Emma Aubert wanted to learn how to serve from one of the greatest servers to play on the ATP tour.

Former men’s professional tennis player Taylor Dent told Aubert to bend her right elbow. She listened intently then tried, but she still didn’t bend her elbow enough.

Finally, Dent, who has the fourth fastest serve in ATP tour history, had Aubert put a second ball in the crook of her elbow.

“He taught me to keep my arm bent (on the serve) like a trophy pose,” Aubert said. “You do it so you can get more power on the ball. If you don’t bend your elbow, it makes you have to whip it.”

After a couple tries, she did it, earning a high-five from Dent.

“It’s just little tricks my father has come up with over the years,” Dent said. “He taught me how to play and how to serve, so I steal all his good material.

“The serve is one thing that really hasn’t changed over the generations. We could argue about forehands and backhands and tactics, but the serve is still hit today like it was back then.”

Aubert, 9, was the youngest of the 20 participants in the Saturday morning camp at Bookcliff Country Club. The camp was organized and produced by Bookcliff Country Club teaching pro Caleb Marquardt, who played against Dent on the USTA national junior circuit. Marquardt is a former Fruita Monument High School state champion and played at the University of Arizona.

The afternoon camp included a few more than a dozen participants.

“It’s cool we get to work with him,” 15-year-old Erin Daniel said. “It’s not every day you get to work with professional tennis players.”

Riley King, 12, was excited about the opportunity, but he admitted he was nervous meeting a former professional tennis player who reached a world ranking of No. 21 during his eight-year career.

“He’s nice,” King said. “He looks intimidating, but he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met.”

Each junior player also had an opportunity to return a serve from Dent at the end of the camp session. Any of the campers who returned his serve in play, received a prize. A handful of kids were able to get their racket on it, but no one returned it.

“That was one of the craziest serves I’ve ever tried to return,” Ty Gardner said. “I’ve never seen anyone hit a serve like that before. It’s the speed, and he could call it anywhere he wanted it. He’d call it down the T and could do it nearly every time.”

The 6-foot-2 Dent gave them a second opportunity. He allowed the campers to choose a first or second serve and told them where he’d serve it.

That did the trick for 17-year-old Gardner on a first serve.

“That helped a lot,” Gardner said. “I could’ve got a racket on it, but I don’t think I could’ve got it back.

“This is probably the highlight of my week so far. It’s amazing to get a pro player’s opinion on everything. I’m hoping I get a lot out of this.”

Along with his father and wife, Dent owns and operates a junior tennis academy in Fountain Valley, California. They have several programs available for junior players in the area.

“Anytime you get kids in good spirits and having a fun time and trying hard, it creates a great scenery for a great experience,” Dent said. “Hopefully they learn a little something or two from Caleb (Marquardt) and myself. That is the dream, they have fun and learn something.”


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