Players alter focus during dual matches to get better

For high school tennis players in the Grand Valley, the beginning and the end of the season are fairly similar.

The year traditionally begins with the Western Slope Invitational tournament and ends with the regional tournament and possibly the state tournament.

Between that time is a stretch of dual matches requiring a different type of focus from the players. Rather than two or more days of tennis with upwards of five to six matches for victory, the win comes from the best two of three sets won.

For most players the run of at least six straight dual matches is a time to rack up some valuable on-court experience.

“This is the time to improve and find your weaknesses,” Fruita Monument’s No. 2 singles player Andi Kirkland said. “This is when you focus on getting better.”

Fruita Monument faces Grand Junction at 4 p.m. today in the first of six dual matches for the Wildcats before they travel to the George Washington Invitational. Kirkland said when taking on familiar foes, it is easier to mentally approach the match.

“You can go into the match with the mindset that you know their strategy,” Kirkland said.

“So you can game plan a little easier to beat them, which is an advantage.”

Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said matches against schools like Fruita Monument and Central are good for her team because they are easily motivated.

“When you are playing a Fruita or a Central, those are rivals and it is not hard for the girls to get up for those matches,” Elliott said. “They don’t want to lose to them.”

But for every team, what the dual matches provide is another opportunity to build in areas that will pay off late in the season. Dual matches allow players a chance to concentrate on winning only the one match, which is a common approach in tournaments.

“A big part of tennis is the mental game,” Grand Junction’s No. 2 singles player Jenny Jessup said. “You have to stay mentally prepared during every dual match to finish.”

In addition to helping the singles players and doubles teams sharpen both their mental and physical game, dual matches provide a good team building opportunity. Kirkland said she can see a connection between dual wins and practice effort.

“We can build confidence as a team, and as we get wins, we practice harder,” Kirkland said. “Every match we learn something about ourselves and get better.”

Grand Junction has the busiest week as the Tigers face Montezuma-Cortez on Friday and Durango on Saturday. Fruita Monument faces the Tigers today and has a week off until next Tuesday’s dual match against Central, the Warriors’ first action since the Western Slope Invitational.


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