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Unknown Tennis Players Get Their Chance to Shine
Tucson area high school boys and girls tennis players, who are consistently overshadowed by their acclaimed teammates, get an opportunity to shine in the 2020 Preseason High School Challenge.
Limited to the high school circuit, these tennis players get eclipsed by their renowned teammates on a regular basis. But this passed Sunday, 64 competitors were in the limelight at the first ever preseason high school tournament for non-Invitational players.
The Jan. 25 challenge was held at the Tucson Racquet and Fitness Club and initiated by the center's athletic director Matt Gleason.
"I wanted to come up with a fun yet competitive idea for the players who don't qualify for the Invitational," he said. "It also gives them a way to get in some practice before the season starts. The turnout was fantastic, for our first time doing this. Hopefully, it'll be even bigger next year."
Fifteen high schools participated in the 2020 Preseason High School Challenge. Desert View HS made the strongest showing with 13 players: 11 girls and two boys. All of the represented schools were 4A and 5A, except for St. Gregory (1A).
"(This tournament) helped me get more experience and prepare for the season," said Desert View's Stephanie Celaya-Serventi, No.1 seed for the Jaguars. "I worked on my serves and footwork today, as well as finishing my strokes."
In the PHSC, competitors played one 6-game set with no advantage points. Each player was guaranteed 5 matches in the tournament, with consolation rounds being called the Compass Draw.
Main Draw winners were Emma Fouts from Catalina Foothills for the girls, and Scott Pretzel, also from CF, for the boys.
"I was tired in that final match, but I just kept hitting (the ball) cross-court and it worked out for me," Fouts said.
TRFC tennis instructor Gretchen Schantz has coached Fouts for the passed two years.
"Emma's a consistent player who always hits the ball hard," she said. "She doesn't make many unforced errors."
In the finals, Fouts defeated her CF teammate Bailey Madden, 6-3.
Also beating one of his own, Pretzel edged out CF's Garret Fenton in a close final round bout, 7-6.
After winning 3 out of the first 5 games of his championship match, Pretzel dropped the next two because of overly-long returns. Down in the set, he battled back with his serve to tie it at 4-4, before ultimately winning the match.
"I was angry at how things were going, so I took it out by playing harder," Pretzel said.
All four finalists in the PHSC were from Catalina Foothills.
Now on the cusp of preseason February tennis practices, these 32 girls and 32 boys now head onto their high school rosters with a tournament under their belts. And in the upcoming months, they'll have a chance to emerge from the shadows and have the Junior USTA soon know these players' names.