Alex Clerihew

    The distinct thwack of a racket smashing a tennis ball may not be a familiar sound to most high school students in the area as tennis is often forgotten or ignored in the midst of football or basketball. However, it is a sound that sophomore Alex Clerihew has known most of his life and has since grown to love.

                Alex, who turns 16 in November, started playing tennis around the age of seven. It wasn’t a story of love at first swing, in fact, tennis didn’t even interest him; “My mom made me,” he said. Even so, as an athletic kid, coaches recommended taking private lessons, for they saw huge potential in him. The classes made tennis fun and challenging, and Alex enjoyed playing more and more. He started regular private lessons at ten and played competitively when he was eleven. From there he took off. By age twelve he was ranked in the top 100 in the state of Texas for his age division. He’s won multiple tournaments, most notably one in Abilene that allowed him to be ranked. His success wasn’t by luck, but rather years of hard work and lots of practice.

                Tennis is an all encompassing sport. To most people, it involves nothing more than swinging a racket at a ball as hard as possible, but Alex and any other avid player would argue differently. “You need to be very fit and quick and have mental toughness because it is an individual sport,” Alex explains. “You have to be physically strong in legs, core, arms, shoulders. You need flexibility, agility, endurance. You need to be an athlete in all aspects, really.” Tennis is more physically demanding than most people think, and the mental aspect is similar to boxing. It takes a will to win and a unique strategy against each different opponent. Footwork is another overlooked portion that is vital to a good tennis player. Alex likes all sports and especially likes playing basketball which helps his hand-eye coordination and footwork, but he gets his edge from a powerful and consistent serve, on a good day serving the ball at 115 miles per hour. He is also learning to adjust in game to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses.

                After countless matches outside of school, Alex tired of the individualism that comes with singles tennis. Even though he “like[s] having the pressure on [himself]”, the team feel of high school tennis rekindled his excitement for the sport. As a freshman he placed third in district for doubles partnered with then senior Tyler Burggren. He has high hopes for this year and the future, desiring to make the State Tournament in singles before he graduates. A broken left wrist slowed him down at the end of freshman year disabling him for seven weeks during the summer. His injury didn’t completely stall him, as the moratorium of hard training allowed him to perfect the smaller details of his game; most notably, the important backhand slice when he couldn’t hit a regular backhand. His broken wrist actually helped round him as a better overall player. What he did lose in the summer he now makes up with a minimum of 11 hours of practice a week.

                For the more distant future, Alex aspires to earn a full scholarship to college with tennis and his A and high B grade average. But for now, he enjoys improving his game and helping all his tennis teammates improve as well. Right now, winning and being able to overpower others is a favorite part of the game for him, but he loves tennis for a simpler reason; “its fun,” he smiles.