By Anthony Dion Herald Writer
A year removed from winning Wesco South and Class 4A District 1 boys tennis singles titles as a sophomore, Mitch Williamson returns to a loaded Jackson squad looking to repeat as the South dual-meet champion.
Williamson lost just one singles match until the state meet and in that lone loss he defaulted because of sickness. So in reality, no one in District 1 has beaten Williamson on the court since his freshman year.
Repeating won’t be easy, however, as the league returns plenty of talent, including notable players such as Michael Chamerski (Jackson), Younghan Kim (Edmonds-Woodway) and Andrew Lee (Kamiak).
See the five players to watch below.
Speaking of Lee, he and Williamson share a friendly rivalry on and off the court. Each is entering his junior season and Lee has yet to beat his Jackson counterpart.
“When I play Mitch, he always beats me,” Lee said.
Lee wasn’t the only player Williamson got the best of last season. Entering his sophomore campaign after a successful freshman year in which he “learned what high school tennis (was) about,” Williamson made a commitment to succeed at a higher level.
“I think I put in a lot more hours, practiced more, worked harder and just focused on being a better player,” Williamson said.
His coach agreed.
“I think after his freshman year, he just wanted to be successful,” Jackson head coach David Hutt said. “He had a great season but he wanted to get to a higher standard. I saw in him that he sacrificed the time and effort. … In the summer he works out with a club coach now. Mitch has sacrificed a lot of time.”
The dedication paid off. As Hutt and Kamiak’s head coach, Victor Alinen, will tell you, the best high school tennis players are the ones playing the sport year round with club teams or under the supervision of a personal coach.
And as Hutt and Alinen will tell you, there is an abundance of young players at the high school level playing year round these days.
”There is a great group of sophomores in the South,” Alinen said. “They’re all club players. … They’re all extra committed. As a coach you do not have the time to teach a kid how to hit a ball, the whole strategy of game play. You don’t have time to do that.”
With the extra time he put in, Williamson saw his backhand vastly improve — both in power and in consistency. Now he hopes to play with a more attacking style to keep his opponents on their toes. He realizes that to be better he needs to finish points at the net rather than waiting for his opponents to make mistakes.
“I just need to be more aggressive this year,” Williamson said.
Lee, meanwhile, essentially mirrored Williamson’s efforts in 2009. After discovering what high school tennis was all about as a freshman, he stepped up his practice time. Now, as a junior, Lee looks to take his game to another level and said the biggest key for him is improving he mental side of the game.
“Sometimes I sort of lose it,” Lee said of his mental game.
In order for him to beat Williamson, he’s going to have to keep his composure.
“Andrew has to get tougher mentally … This is a mental game, you have got to play with confidence,” Alinen said. “Mitch always plays with confidence.”
And if Lee is able to do that, maybe he’ll finally get the better of Williamson. How would Lee react if he were to defeat his good friend?
“When I beat him, I’ll be proud of myself for finally reaching my goal,” Lee said. “And then maybe I’ll be able to joke with him a bit.”