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Keyes ready for nationals in Kalamazoo

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

Fletcher Keyes is a guy that knows a lot about timing and strategy. There’s the kind he can control, and then there’s the kind he can’t. where as one of the top junior tennis players in the state and the region, he uses his mental edge to outsmart players all in matches all-year long. He spent his last summer bogged down by mononucleosis and last winter battling a nagging wrist injury, but the timing and strategy of this summer couldn’t be better. After all, it’s the all-important summer before his senior year when strong appearances at the national tournaments mean looks by some of the top college tennis programs in the country.

Keyes recently returned from Maryland where he competed in the Clay Court Super Nationals, and this weekend he will be heading to the premier junior event of the year, the USTA National Championships Boys 18s in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Aug. 4-13. The tournament of all the junior tournaments, the hard court event will send its winner to the U.S. Open. The prestige of the event draws not only the best players from around the country, but also American players competing internationally, making the competition the toughest of the year.

"It’s basically the championship of juniors," Keyes said.

Last year, Keyes attended the same event for the 16s age group, but this is his first time competing against the top age group of juniors.

Keyes will be joined by another Parkite, Loyola Marymount-bound Nick Perez, who is training in Florida. Both boys earned a spot in the elusive event by having a top 200 ranking nationally.

Keyes says that he is training and mentally preparing for the competition. He explains that the skill level is often quite even at the highest level, but it’s the mental preparedness that gives many players the edge.

"At this level, there really isn’t an easy match," Keyes said. "It’s definitely mostly mental. A lot of times, kids will psyche themselves out."

Keyes was able to win one match at the clay court national tournament, but said in general, the Intermountain region usually doesn’t perform well at that event, because they rarely ever play on the clay surface. The hard court is where Keyes thinks the Western contingent can really shine.

The Hard Court National Championships also attract the most college coaches, because that’s the surface on which they compete. Keyes has already made a connection with recruiters from Notre Dame and Santa Clara and hopes to meet a few more in Michigan.

Keyes will also have the added bonus of having his coach, Skosh Berwald, travel with him. Generally he attends most national events alone, but when he realized that there was an extra hotel room available for Berwald, he invited him along.

"He can watch my matches and piece together what I’m doing wrong," Keyes said. "A lot of times in a tournament, you can’t figure out how to change what you’re doing wrong."

Keyes is also hoping that he can use the exposure to the country’s best in his lower level matches throughout the coming year.

To follow Keyes’ and Perez’ progress at the event, log onto http://www.usta.com.


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