On Court 6 at Elliott Tennis Center on Sunday, the Grand Valley's most recent tennis standout faced off against someone who could be the next to carry that torch.

In the opening match for both in singles at the Western Slope Open, Sarah Fleming took on Emma Aubert in a match between not only friends, but two of the most talented female tennis players in the area.

Fleming made four state tournament appearances during her time at Fruita Monument High School, graduating in 2018. She's going to continue her tennis career at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Fleming is a future Tiger, and Aubert is a current Tiger. Well, sort of. She'll attend Palisade High School, but she'll play for Grand Junction High School.

"I wanted to do the (International Baccalaureate) program, so I decided to go there, but I'll play tennis for Junction because of the district I live in," Aubert said.

Aubert and Fleming have been friends for years, working on their on-court craft together since they started playing.

There's a five-year gap between the soon-to-be college freshman and the incoming high school freshman, but their friendship has rendered that irrelevant.

"We've only played a couple of times in these kinds of local tournaments, but we hit a lot together just to train," Fleming said. "Even though I'm older, we're really good friends."

Aubert will begin her career for Grand Junction already carrying expectations.

According to TennisRecruiting.net, Aubert had a 14-10 record in junior play, is a 2-star recruit already and ranks as the sixth-best recruit in Colorado for the Class of 2023.

She could also claim the No. 1 singles position on the Tigers' squad in the spring, which would further raise expectations for her prep career.

One must forgive Aubert if she decides not to focus too much on those things, though.

"I'm just not going to worry about what people are thinking," Aubert said. "I want to play singles, and there's a couple of good girls on the team like Julianna Campos, so I'll just see what happens. I just want to have fun and see what I can do."

Aubert stands now where Fleming once did. Fleming wasted no time as a youngster impressing tennis instructor Ron Elliott, and her junior career further opened the door to all kinds of possibilities in high school and beyond.

Fleming lived up to those expectations with her state trips and her scholarship to Occidental. Now, her long-time friend is in a similar position with others' hopes for her mounting.

"I definitely think there's a parallel between when I started high school and her starting high school now, just being one of the best girls in the valley," Fleming said. "I can't wait to see how she does. I think she's going to do super great. She could take it really far. I'm proud of what all she's done."

Aubert considers herself lucky to have a friend who's been in such a similar situation.

"I look up to her, for sure," Aubert said. "She's really smart. She's a really good student, and she's super nice. All around, I look to her as a role model."

Sunday's shiners

Sunday featured finals in 13 brackets.

Fleming came out on top in the women's 9.0 doubles finals with Laura Ludlam, beating Angeline Norman and Annette James 6-4, 7-6.

Teammates in doubles competition, Grand Junction High School's Max Nikkari beat Fruita Monument graduate and friend Brandon Keller in the final of the 18-16 men's singles in the Australian Division, 7-6, 1-6, 10-2.

In the 18-16 women's singles in the Australian Division, Montrose High School's Cora Blowers beat Fruita Monument's Abby Deeths 6-1, 6-3.

In the Wimbledon Division, Liam Pomrenke beat Conley Rogers 6-4, 6-3 to take the top spot in the 18-16 men's singles.

The 14-12 women's singles in the French Division went to Harper King, who topped Sami MacDonald in a three-set final, 6-4, 2-6, 10-8.

In the men's side of the 14-12 singles in the French Division, Corbin Saint Peter beat Jack Fry 6-1, 6-3.

The women's 8.0 doubles title went to Denise and Julie Faber, who beat Jenna Berguin and Lisa Smith 6-4, 6-4.

Kathy Bachlet and Jennifer Watson won the women's 7.0 doubles title when they defeated Sharon Reiner and Linda Vandehey 6-2, 7-6.

In the women's 6.0 doubles final, Hannah Bou-Matar and Taya McCallum came out on top against Eileen Arja and Maggie Coleman 6-1, 6-1.

The men's open doubles championship went to Brandon Gregg and Lars Irion, who beat Kevin Harris and David Smith 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

In men's 7.0 doubles, John and Cody Davis lost the first set to Rick Plett and Jeff Thornton but rallied for a 3-6, 7-5, 11-9 victory.

The mixed 8.0 doubles title went to Bryan Baughman and Berguin, who defeated Lisa Sharp and Evan Wilson 6-3, 6-2.

The mixed 7.0 doubles title was won by Brian and Stephanie Rush, who defeated Bachlet and Plett 5-7, 7-5, 10-8.

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