Young tennis players face off

Tourney brings out the best

Standing water forced matches inside the Tennis Center on Saturday, but the rain and cold temperatures did little to dampen the spirit of the youths gathered in Steamboat Springs for the 2004 Intermountain Tennis Association's 12-and-under Memorial Day Championships.

Players from the six-state Intermountain Region began singles play Friday. The championships continue into Monday.

The 12-and-under championships provide young tennis players an opportunity to get tournament experience in an extremely competitive environment. The top youths in Colorado and the region are in Steamboat Springs this weekend.

Kylee Swiggart, 12, is one of the few local players entered in the draw, and she said her group is full of talented players. Swiggart is competing in the local tournament for the first time after taking an extended break from the sport.

"I've only been playing tennis for a year and a half," Swiggart said. "I played as a pee wee, and then I just dropped it because I was busy with other stuff and didn't care for it."

Swiggart said her knowledge of the basics helped her pick up the sport again when she decided to resume playing. Saturday, she lost to Utah's Ashley Tanner, 6-2, 6-2.

"I thought I played pretty well," Swiggart said. "It was fun, and she was really nice."

Swiggart said she enjoys the tournament atmosphere like the one at the Tennis Center this weekend because of the challenge it gives her.

Swiggart's younger brother, Jamey Swiggart, also is in the tournament, but this is the 9-year-old's second go around in the event. Swiggart opened with Jaron Belcher on Friday.

"I played really well but lost," he said.

Swiggart dropped the 2 1/2 hour match to Belcher, 7-5, 6-4. Eric Honert defeated Swiggart on Saturday, 6-0, 6-0. Swiggart said he was a little tired Saturday because of the length of Friday's match. He has to turn around and play at 8:30 a.m. today, but he is growing more accustomed to the tournament format.

"I notice (in tournaments now) that I am more confident in myself," he said.

Brett Gordan, 10, is another Steamboat player in this weekend's tournament field.

The ITA's 12-and-under championships is the first of seven major tennis tournaments scheduled this summer at the Tennis Center. Other events scheduled for this summer are the Intermountain Division Senior Sectional and the NTRP Championships.

The Tennis Center also is hosting more events such as the Steamboat Tennis Association's Old West Mixed Doubles and the Ore House Singles and Doubles Championships.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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