DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Clarke completes tennis run with 3rd straight crown

A tennis player like Madison Clarke just doesn’t come along very often.
The Xavier Prep senior is a prime example of what a player should be -- a strong presence on the court who doesn’t show up the opponent with demonstrative actions and is humble person off the court.
Clarke won the Division I state championship as a sophomore in 2013, as a junior in 2014 and on Saturday (May 2) made it three in a row with a 6-1, 6-0 domination of Peoria Liberty’s Corinne Prost. Clarke was the No. 1 seed, Prost No. 3.
In the semifinals on Saturday morning, Clarke defeated No. 4 Madi Moore of Scottsdale Desert Mountain 6-0, 6-0.
How dominant was Clarke? She dropped just two games the entire tournament.
“That just doesn’t happen very much,’’ said Xavier coach Laurie Martin.
Clarke, who will play collegiately at Santa Clara, was relieved that this was over. Now she can turn her attention to helping Xavier win a fourth straight state team title next week.
“I played the match today like I played the whole tournament. I thought I played well the whole tournament,’’ Clarke said.
She will never take these three championships for granted.
“I am so excited to win three in a row,’’ she said. “There was definitely a lot of hard work that went into it.’’
It probably helped that Prost’s semifinal match against No. 2 seed Yolena Carlon of Phoenix Desert Vista went three sets and lasted nearly three hours.
Clarke said that didn’t necessarily play into her game plan.
“We were both pretty tired. It was hot out there,’’ Clarke said.
Virtually all of Clarke’s shots were working, forehand, backhand, lob, with nearly perfect placement along the side boundaries and the back line.
“She anticipates the ball early, puts her opponent on the defensive right away, puts them back on their heels,’’ Martin said. “Her timing is great and she hits the cleanest ball.
“The more pressure you put on her, the more she rises to the occasion and raises the bar.
“She always has been a good player. We will miss her for her ability, but how she led us in other ways, served as an example for the younger players through her work ethic.
“I think she is going to wind up being one of the best in Arizona history.’’
The Xavier doubles team of Scarlet Rush and Caroline James entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed and finished as the consolation champion.
The duo fell to No. 2 seed Rebecca Salaway and Grace Koester of Scottsdale Chaparral 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals earlier on Saturday and then defeated Chandler Basha’s Jewel Brundrett and Rahgan Jensen 6-2, 6-0 in the consolation match.
Martin’s daughter, Amanda, the assistant coach who works with the doubles players, said Rush, a senior, achieved quite a legacy of her own, winning three state doubles titles (with Maggie Cohen) and finishing up with a consolation title.
Rush and James, a junior, had not played together much during the season, but quickly developed into a formidable team.
“It takes awhile to learn each other’s style of play and they did a good job of it in such a short time,’’ Amanda Martin said.
"This was really Caroline’s first year in tournament play and it’s a tribute to her to play as well as she did. I think she was our most improved player and she will be even better next year.’’

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