Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are two of the most dominate players in the world of tennis and a youngster from Waiakea is also dominating her competition here on the Big Island.
Hilo tennis sensation Sarah Dvorak just keeps on winning. The 14 year old who just entered the 9th grade at Waiakea High continues to turn heads while keeping her opponents off balance.
Dvorak recently won two tournaments, playing at the 18 year old division and defeated #1 ranked Sarah Kukino, not once but twice in straight sets. During the Hawaii State Junior Championships, from August 12 – 15 Dvorak matched up with Kukino in the girl’s 18 championships, winning 6-1, 6-4.
A month later, Sept 3-6, it was again the #2 seed, Dvorak, this time playing for the Hilo Fall Junior Sectional Championship against #1 seed Kukino with similar results. The Waiakea freshman beat the Kauai senior in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
The Hilo Junior Tennis Club hosted the four day tournament which saw play at both the Waiakea High courts and the Edith Kanaka’ole Tennis Stadium in Hilo. Director of the Sectional Championships, Michael Miyahira, had praise for the young Dvorak.
“Sarah (Dvorak) is very strong,” Miyahira said. “She is a very good player and we look forward to seeing her play in future tournaments.”
Dvorak’s victories over Kukino were huge accomplishments as Kukino is the defending Kauai Interscholastic Federation individual champion and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s 2010 state runner-up.
Kukino’s only loss during the 2010 prep tennis season came at the hands of the eventual state champion, Kealakehe’s Sayo Tsukumoto.
Tsukumoto’s only loss last year came at the hands of Dvorak in a United States Tennis Association sanction tournament. Tsukumoto was a senior in high school at the time while Dvorak was in the 8th grade at Waiakea Intermediate School.
“I play an aggressive base line game using a short ball attack,” Dvorak said. “I’m still working on my serve as it needs more spin and more kick so that I can get a better bounce on my ball.”
Dvorak has been cross training with Robin Takahashi since the fourth grade as they work on variety of skills to promote strength and endurance.
“We (Takahashi) do suicides and we use the medicine ball. He gets me to work on my legs and recently has placed more emphasis on my upper body,” Dvorak said.
Dvorak also heads to Kona on a regular bases and uses the coaching skills of Evan Schermer to develop into a formidable tennis player. “Coach Evan and I have been working together since sixth grade and I owe a lot of where I am today to him,” she said.
“Sarah’s (Dvorak) huge serve overwhelms the girls in Hawaii,” Coach Schermer said. “She is a lefty that has a 105 mile per hour first serve. She reminds me of Rafael Nadel, another lefty with a powerful serve.”
Schermer believes that Dvorak has the capability to become a four time high school tennis champion. “Sarah just dominates the girls she plays and is reminiscent of the domination Serena Williams has in playing her opponents.”
Dvorak is currently ranked by www.tennisrecruiting.net as the number 59th incoming freshman in the nation, but Schermer believes that she will move much higher in the national rankings in the next two years.
“Sarah is already one of the top prospects in the country,” Schermer said. “With more national exposure I believe we’ll see Sarah ranked in the top 10 in the nation by her junior year in high school.”
Despite winning her last two tournaments in the 18 year old division Dvorak still sees a lot of work ahead.
“I need to work on everything,” she said. “My serves, volleys, and overhand need more work and I can still do better on my footwork.”
The Warrior freshman contributes much of her demanding schedule to effective time management. “I have to juggle school, practice and home activities and I have learned to manage my time well,” she said.
“I’ll practice with players that are better than I am, usually boys or adult men, so that I can react to the big serves and make solid returns. When Zandrix (Acob) was here I would practice regularly with him,” Dvorak said. (Acob is another 14 year and is ranked as the #3 player in the USAT Hawaii Pacific Section 18 year old division).
Due to Dvorak’s financial inability to play regularly on the USAT Hawaii Pacific Sectional circuit she remains ranked as the #2 player in the state at the 18 year old division with Kukino retaining the #1 state ranking.
“My parents are sending my older sister, Joyce, to college at Seattle University so I’m not able to afford to play in all the tennis tournaments throughout the state,” Dvorak sad.
“I’d like to be able to play in more local tournaments and to participate at the Winter Nationals at the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Arizona,” Dvorak said. “But my families limited financial resources place a limit on the amount of competitive tournaments that I can play.”
Rising tennis stars Sarah Dvorak and Zandrix Acob sweep their ways through the finals of the DT USA Nike Summer Section Tennis Championships in Honolulu to qualify for the national championships.
Dvorak, a soon to be 8th grader at Waiakea Intermediate School, warmed up for the sectionals by playing in the West Hawaii District Junior Championships held in late May.
Playing in the Girls’ 18 Singles in the West Hawaii Championships Dvorak had to work her way through the consolation bracket after losing a tough opening match.
“My coach (Evan Schermer) told me that if I want to be very good I need to play the best players, so we decided to enter the 18 singles, even though I’m only 13,” Dvorak said.
The soon to be eighth grader persevered by winning her opening match in consolation before facing Hilo’s Kendall Tada in the semi’s. Dvorak eliminated Tada by identical scores of 6-2, and then faced Kealakehe’s Sayo Tsukamoto in the finals.
Tsukamoto is the three time Big Island Interscholastic Federation girls champion and has finished third in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tennis championships for the past two years.
Dvorak, who was unseeded going into the tournament defeated Tsukamoto in 6-2, 7-6 to win the Consolation bracket championship.
“That was definitely the biggest win I’ve ever had,” Dvorak said of beating Tsukamoto. “My ground stokes worked well for me as I like staying back and hitting for point.”
The left hand Dvorak also brings to the courts a solid serve with very few double faults that allows her to stay in all of her matches. “I need to work more on my volleys as that is probably the weakest part of my game,” she said.
Entering the Nike Sectional Play in Honolulu on June 11 Dvorak was again unseeded and needed to start play in the group of 32.
Dvorak managed to fight her way through the competition before playing in the championship finals against the number one seed, Julia Weisel, for the lone automatic berth to nationals.
In a highly contested match Dvorak pulled out another exciting win of her young career with straight set victories 7-5, 6-2.
“I don’t get to play in many tournaments because of the travel cost and that is probably the reason that I come into these tournaments unseeded,” Dvorak said.
“My coach (Schermer) really helped my game as he makes me try my best. I was really confident coming into this tournament and I really wanted to win,” Dvorak said of her sectional victory.
Dvorak also had high praise for University of Hawaii at Hilo conditioning coach, Robin Takahashi. “He’s (Takahashi) really helped a lot of us in our strength and conditioning as a lot of high school tennis players go to him after school to get in shape,” she said.
Even after winning sectionals and advancing to nationals the jubilant Dvorak believed that her previous victory over high school champion Tsukamoto was her biggest. “My win over Sayo remains as the biggest tennis victory in my life,” she said.
Zandrix Acob is no stranger to junior tennis in Hawaii as the youngster maintains the states number one ranking for Boys’ 14.
Acob started 2009 off with a bang by winning the Copper Bowl Championship in Tucson, Arizona for Boys’ 12 before turning 13 in March. The youngster has just completed the seventh grade at Hilo Intermediate School and isn’t sure where he might be next year.
“I’ve been talking with my parents about possible changing schools next year, but we still haven’t decided,” he said.
At the Nike tourney in Honolulu last week Acob defeated his first three opponents in straight love sets before beating Marcel Chan in the finals 7-6 (2), and 6-2.
“I think I’m playing my best right now and my opponents are having a hard time adjusting to my game,” Acob said.
“My serves and forehand strokes worked really well for me,” Acob said. “But I still need to work on my footwork and my volleys.”
Acob credits a lot of his success to his coach, Steve Drosdick, who has been working with the youngster for almost two years.”
“He’s (Drosdick) really strict and he has changed almost all aspects of my game, from my forehand to my backhand and even my serves,” Acob said.
With their sectional victories Dvorak and Acob have won from Nike roundtrip transportation, food and lodging for themselves to play in the NJT USA National Masters at Stanford University in California from September 18-20.
Winners of the National competition will then advance to play in the NJT International Masters in the Dominican Republic in October.