That one player dominated the girls Division II state tennis tournament is a bit unusual. That she surrendered one measly game until the title match and just five throughout the event is amazing. That she was a freshman is absurd.
That one player dominated the girls Division II state tennis tournament is a bit unusual.
That she surrendered one measly game until the title match and just five throughout the event is amazing.
That she was a freshman is absurd.
But indeed, that was the scenario played out by Gates Mills Gilmour Academy’s Lauren Davis, who swept through the entire season without so much as losing a set. And in Columbus, she won her first two matches without dropping a game, blitzed her semifinal foe, 6-1, 6-0, then polished off tough Gabby Steele of Cincinnati Country Day, 6-4, 6-0, for the title.
Gee, you suppose she earned the Ohio High Magazine Player of the Year award?
Certainly, however, Davis was no underdog. Despite just having turned 15, she is second in the nation in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) 16-and-under rankings. After she won the 2008 National 16-and-under Hard Court Championship in San Diego last August, local newspapers were comparing her to Tracy Austin and legendary Chris Evert.
But unlike many past and current professional players who were whacking forehands at the age of three, Davis didn’t even take up the sport until she was nine-years-old. So how did she rise to the top of the youth charts in less than five years?
Let her explain it.
“I’m really athletic, so I caught on quickly,” she explains. “Sports come easily to me.”
Davis has also participated in soccer, basketball and track, but she is by far most skilled in tennis. And though she occasionally receives a bit of a challenge at the high school level, she finds her strongest competition in tournaments outside the area.
In fact, Lancers coach Cyndi Smith believes the United States Developmental Program, which grooms players for professional careers, might soon be courting Davis. That would force her to move to Florida or California.
“I did get invited last year to California, but I would never consider moving to California,” she says. “I like it here in Cleveland. But I really do want to go pro. I might have to go to Florida, but for now I’m attached to Cleveland. Maybe in two years I’ll go.”
The scary thought for area high school players is that Davis could return to play for the Lancers and even improve her game. She has yet to decide if outside tournament play will prove too taxing and prevent her from competing for Gilmour again.
Though Davis stresses that all areas of her game need work – particularly her serving and volleying – Smith is overwhelmed by her talent.
“She’s just at a different level,” Smith says. “The funny thing is that she was always competing in tournaments and doing very well, but now that she’s in high school, she’s getting a lot more publicity. The head coach at Ohio State said that Lauren could play for her team right now.
“Lauren plays mainly at the baseline and she has just incredible balance. That’s her gift. Her body is never out of position and her stroke always looks just beautiful out there on the court. She’s never out of control. She could have been a gymnast.”
The talent of Davis, who overwhelms opponents with a wicked topspin on both her forehand and backhand, motivated Smith to ask Gilmour athletic director Tom Bryan to load up the schedule. Area powerhouses such as Avon Lake, Shaker Heights and Brecksville challenged the Lancers, who performed well enough to reach the semifinals in the state team tennis tournament.
Gilmour lost in the semis, but beat defending Division II state champion Lexington in the consolation round to place third.
Davis punctuated the regular season by blanking Avon Lake first singles opponent Nikki Chiricosta, who entered the match at 16-0.
Davis would certainly enjoy competing with her teammates again next year, but other considerations must be taken into account.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do because this season just ended,” she says. “But it was so much fun. I’ll make the decision if I’m going to play high school tennis again next summer. I guess it will just depend on how I’m doing.”
But lest one think Davis never gets tired of traveling and competing, one should think again.
“I really don’t enjoy playing tournaments around the holidays,” she says. “I have a tournament to play this Christmas, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to celebrate a real Christmas. I’m really not looking forward to playing.”
That makes it even. Nobody who feels the need to win looks forward to playing her either.