Hillsboro senior Harry Faber said there is not much film study for tennis. He’s not pouring over tape of an opponent’s tendencies and shots before a match.
What he has done is try to play as well as he can play.
“I just try to keep the ball in,” Faber said.
This is an over simplification. It was clear in Faber’s second match on Thursday against Nate Clennan of Hutch Trinity in Hillsboro that he had a strategy to win every point.
Clennan won the second game of the match, capitalizing on Faber errors. The Hillsboro senior responded by winning six consecutive games. He won the match, 8-1.
The foundation of Faber’s success was his serve. His serve is noticeably faster and more accurate this season. He hit in about 50 percent of his first serves against Clennan. A few of those first serves went for aces, including a few bullets that skidded past Clennan’s backhand. Faber said he has worked on his serve a lot.
“I try to serve to the backhand a lot,” Faber said. “But I try to hit to wherever I see an opening. You set up a point with your serve.”
Clennan returned most of those serves, but with the ball barreling in on his hands, his returns often fluttered to the opposing baseline. This set up either Faber’s forehand or backhand return.
Faber puts more spin on his backhand shots. He said that he always preferred to hit to his backhand; he said favoring that side allowed him a quicker route to forehand strikes. However, he said he has added more spin to his forehand. Faber’s forehand shots are more fluid and comfortable this season, and thus he hits the ball harder.
After trading baseline groundstrokes for a couple volleys with Clennan, keeping the Hutch Trinity player on his heels, Faber would then attempt an approach shot. By delivering a ball deep into the court, it allows Faber to approach the net.
Rushing the net was one of Faber’s strengths last season, but he may be even better at this part of his game because his approach shots have improved.
With Clennan struggling to get back into position, Faber then had the opportunity to deliver a slicing strike to either short corner of the singles court, giving Clennan little chance for a return.
Faber did not play a perfect match. He was frustrated with himself after not hammering down looping returns in the middle of the court.
“The wind today was pushing high shots short on me,” he said.
He continued in the Hillsboro invitational tournament by defeating Zach Brasher of Sterling, 8-3, before losing to Ross Rasmussen of Conway Springs, 8-2 in the championship match.
“He had three nice wins and played solid in all aspects of the game,” Coach Stuart Holmes said of Faber.
Faber has worked to improve the other parts of his game to become an all-around singles player.
Faber added that every player on the Hillsboro tennis team has improved. That improvement was also evident on Thursday.
No. 2 singles player Daniel Gray won a match against Grant Bellar of Conway Springs, 8-3, before losing his next two matches to Tony Treweeke of Circle, 8-2, Evan Bentley of Hutch Trinity, 8-2, and Clennan, 8-1.
“Daniel hasn’t played much competitive singles, but he did a great job consistently making shots and staying focused,” Holmes said.
Hillsboro’s No. 1 doubles team of Jeff Pritchard and Tyler Funk lost their first match against the team from Chapman, 8-5, but then defeated the team from Circle, 8-3, and the team from Sterling 8-6, before losing in the consolation final, 8-7 on a 7-5 tiebreak.
Faber said Pritchard and Funk have good chemistry. Pritchard excels at the front of the net whereas Funk can use his rangy athleticism at the baseline.
Over the course of the season, the pair should gain consistency. In the match against Chapman, Pritchard completed several short-corner winners while playing at the front of the net. Pritchard also double faulted on every point in a game that went to Chapman.
Faber and the doubles team of Funk and Gray each won consolation brackets April 2 in the Ron Dahlston Tennis Classic tournament in Lindsborg. All of the teams in the tournament were 4A except Hillsboro.
Faber lost his opening match to Will Bochle of Smoky Valley, an 8-7 tiebreaker win. Faber then defeated Zachary Baldauf of Hesston, 8-4, and Isaac Sprague of Concordia, 8-3. Faber won the ninth-place match 8-3 over David Kitzinger of Hesston.
Funk and Gray lost their first match before defeating opponents from Concordia, Abilene, and Wichita Collegiate.
“I was especially pleased with the way Funk and Gray hung in there and won their last match in a tiebreaker, 7-2,” Holmes said. “It was Tyler’s first tennis medal and Daniel’s second in their careers, so it was great to end on such a positive note.”