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.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Xavier tennis camp focuses on the basics

A group of 15 players ranging from grades 5 through 9 took to the Stark tennis courts on Monday (June 4) for the start of an Xavier Prep-hosted weeklong camp that emphasized the basics and above all, having fun.

XCP head coach Laurie Martin and some of her assistants guided the players through the session, which began at approximately 7 a.m. to avoid the hottest part of the day. The activity will continue daily through Friday (June 8).

“It is fun to be able to work with the younger girls and help get them started on what we hope will be a lifetime involvement with the game,’’ Martin said.

Some of these players eventually could wear the Xavier Royal blue, Kelly green and white. They would start by playing freshman tennis, which Martin oversees during the fall. She has a no-cut policy, which allows upwards of 70-80 to participate on a regular basis.

Martin said the players have various skill levels and at least have some exposure to the game rather than starting from scratch.

The players are placed in two groups. The courts are sometimes divided off and shortened and the tennis balls are color coded, with some easier to handle (i.e., not as much speed).

One of the most important starting points is the grip of the racket. The most basic grip is the Continental, almost like shaking hands or grabbing the handle of a hammer.

“To some, it doesn’t feel real comfortable at first. It kind of takes awhile to get used to,’’ Martin said. “It can affect the movement of the ball, with topspin, and makes it harder for the opponent to set up for the return.’’

The coach expects to see some improvement by the end of the week, but emphasizes to the players to continue to develop their skills with some additional coaching assistance from individuals who give lessons.

“They are going to get better. It just takes time,’’ Martin said.

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