Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Tennis Teen Sensation Aiming for Big Apple

Hilo's Sarah Dvorak reaching new level in tennis

   Barely a teenager and already ranked as one of Hawaii’s top tennis stars among 18 year olds, Sarah Dvorak could be headed to New York.

  The Waiakea Intermediate eighth grader, Sarah Dvorak, is turning heads during tennis competition as the 13 year old phenomenon is ranked number 2 in the state for girls 18.

   “Sarah is now at a whole new level of tennis,” Coach Evan Schermer said.  “When the new rankings came out she was #2 in the state for girls 18 and at this time last year she was ranked #2 for the 14 and under group.”

   Schermer believes that Dvorak’s state ranking is unprecedented and based on her tournament record over the past year that she should actually be ranked #1.

   “Sarah hasn’t lost a match in the girls 18 division all year and I have written a letter to the USTA asking them to reconsider the latest rankings,” Schermer said. 

   Dvorak recently breezed through the competition, winning the USTA Hawaii Pacific Section singles title, held March 18-21, by defeating Kauai’s Sarah Kukino in the finals by a score of 6-2, 6-0.

   During the Hawaii Pacific Section tournament Dvorak teamed with Punahou’s Katie Kim to also capture the doubles title, defeating Waiakea’s Ceara Sumida and Kukino in the seim-finals enroute to winning the doubles championship.

   “What Sarah did on Oahu is unheard of in tennis,” Coach Schermer said.  “For a 13 year old to not only win the singles 18 title but to also combine to win the doubles championship is an outstanding accomplishment.”

   According to Schermer, Dvorak went from playing in the 14 and under division last year and bypassed the 16 division to play at the 18 level.  “Now that is what I call improvement!” the proud coach said.

   Dvorak’s mother, Rose, is the tennis coach at St. Joseph and each day Sarah joins the Cardinal squad to work out with them.

   “I run a couple miles with the St. Joe girls to build up my endurance and after practice we will do sprints up hills,” Dvorak said.

   Dvorak will also practice against the Cardinal boys in order to work on her game.  “I need to work on my footwork and to be more aggressive at the net,” she said.  “I have a good percentage of getting my first serves in and I’m strong at hitting short balls.  I have the confidence to play well and I’m very competitive.”

  Dvorak has won all three tournaments she has entered this year and in May will enter the West Hawaii Tourney at Mauna Kea.

   “I plan on continuing to play at the 18’s as this is the best competition for me,” Dvorak said.  “The kids are older, stronger, more experienced and they hit harder.  I’m learning to adjust my game in order to play at the higher level of competition.”

   Dvorak will now be given the opportunity to win a spot at the US Open qualifying tournament in New York.

   “Sarah will need to play in the Hawaii Sectional Tournament that runs from June 2 to 6 at the Central Oahu Regional Park (CORP) in order to win a spot at the US Open,” Schermer said.

   The CORP tournament is an “open” competition which means that Dvorak will be playing against college students and adults, but this doesn’t frazzle the tough eighth grader.  The winners of the tournament will win a Wild Card spot in the US Open.

   “I always try to play my best and right now I’m trying to work my way up to becoming the best,” she said.  “I’ve played in other open tournaments before and I know that I need to play my best to be number 1.”

   Dvorak said that she was a little disappointed at being ranked number 2 in the state for 18 year olds, but she realizes that the more she plays the better she’ll get.

  “My coach (Evan Schermer) helps me a lot, but he’s in Kona and right now, during the high school tennis season, it’s hard for my mom to get me to Kona on a regular basis,” Dvorak said.

   So far, regardless of the obstacles, she has responded and fared well.  That’s a trend that the young tennis star and her coach hopes continues – all the way to New York


April 13, 2010 Posted by | tennis | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kurtistown Teen Looking to Play the Best

Sarah Dvorak, 13, is one of Hawaii's best tennis players

To be good at a sport you need to play against the best competition and for 13-year old Sarah Dvorak finding the best tennis players to compete against often means traveling to the mainland to enter tournaments.

Over the weekend Dvorak and her family drove over to the West Side of the Island to enter the Queen K Tesoro Annual Fall Mixed Doubles Tournament hosted by the Royal Kona Tennis Club and her coach, Evan Schermer.

“The tournament that we put together is for adults, but I wanted Sarah to play so that she could gain more experience,” Schermer said.  “She’s the strongest singles woman in the tournament, but doubles is a totally different game and this should be fun for her.”

Schermer came to Kona from the Pennsylvania area where he coached tennis for Robert Morris University.  “Sarah has a tremendous work ethic and she maximizes her potential by working really hard,” he said.

During the 2009 junior tennis season Dvorak, in her quest to play the best has often entered the older, high school age division, to gain the most experience.

Earlier in the year Dvorak played in the 18 year old bracket of the West Hawaii District Junior Championships and then went on to compete in and win the 14-year old division of the Nike Junior Tournament a month later.

Dvorak advanced in the West Hawaii District tournament by beating three time Big Island Interscholastic Federation tennis champion, Sayo Tsukamoto of Kealakehe, winning in straight sets 6-2, 7-6.

Over the Labor Day weekend Dvorak, an 8th grader at Waiakea Intermediate School, won the Hilo’s Fall Junior Sectional Tennis Tournament Championship while playing in the 18-year old bracket.

Coach Schermer believes that the older completion makes Dvorak a better player.  “In tennis you really need the combination of being an athlete first and a tennis player second,” he said.  “Sarah has a good tennis base and needs to work on her athleticism.  I’ve got to make sure that she heads in the right direction.”

By mid September Dvorak was competing in the Nike Tournament in California where she faced experienced players in the 14 division.

Sarah Dvorak

“I think that the path that Sarah is heading in will lead to her going to a college with a strong tennis program,” Schermer said.  “She should one day be able to play in the upper tier of college programs.”

While her serve and ground strokes are very competitive she still lacks the high caliber play that is found at the national tournament level.

At the end of October Dvorak played in the North Hawaii Tennis Association Junior Championships where she finished second in the 18 division losing to Sarah Kukino in the finals 7-5, 7-5.

Despite last month’s loss Dvorak is ranked at number 5 in the state for the 18 year old division and has compiled a 13-3 record during 2009.  “Tennis players are 100 percent made on so much technique and Sarah still needs help in this area,” Coach Schermer said. 

Dvorak’s coach believes that there are other areas in which the youngster needs to work on to become a better player and that playing older girls have helped her game improve.   

“A t the Nike Tournament Sarah played really well as her serve and ground strokes are better than most of the competition,” her mother, Rose Dvorak, said.  “But what she lacks is playing experience against a higher level of talent.”

Now the focus is to send the talented youngster to play in the USTA National Winter Championships in Scottsdale, Arizona to face some of the best competition in her age division.

The Winter Championships run from December 27 to January 1 and if Dvorak qualifies she will then compete in the Copper Bowl Tennis Tournament held in Tucson from Jan 2 – 7.

Dvorak’s family must decide prior to December 3 if Sarah will be competing at Nationals over the holidays and their decision will be based on finances.

Dvorak’s mother, Rose, who is a tennis coach at St. Joseph High School believes that the cost of getting Sarah to play in Tucson during the holidays could exceed $3,000 a price tag that would put a strain on the families budget.

If anyone would like to help Sarah Dvorak with her travel expenses the family is accepting donations which can be mailed to:  Rose Dvorak, P.O. Box 1154, Kurtistown, HI 96760.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Junior Tennis | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hilo Teen Wins Pacific Sectional Championship

Sarah Dvorak works her way through Sectionals

Sarah Dvorak works her way through Sectionals

While the world was watching 17 year old sensation Melanie Oudin in the Women’s Open Tennis Tournament from New York while tennis eyes in Hilo were focused on 13-year old Sarah Dvorak.

     Dvorak was busy during the Labor Day weekend working her way through the field of 16 in the 18 year old bracket of the Hilo’s Fall Junior Tennis Sectionals Championships.

  Dvorak, an 8th grader from Waiakea Intermediate with a remarkable ability to return the ball from the baseline, fought her way past much older and more experienced players to capture the Pacific Sectional title by defeating Honolulu’s Kelly Ann Domingo, the number one seed, in the finals by a “pro set” score of 8 to 5.

     “We needed to change the format for the main draw by the third day,” Tournament Director Glen Tada said.  “We got a lot of rain over the Labor Day weekend which backed us up quite a bit, but we managed to finish on time using the pro format.”

   To accommodate the need to get in all the matches Tada and his staff instituted the “pro format” scoring which had the first player reaching eight points winning their match.

   “The rain and the delays didn’t really bother me, as I’m used to it,” Dvorak said.

   In the first round of competition Dvorak needed to get by Oahu’s Bobbi Oshiro.  “It was tough as she (Oshiro) moved me around a lot and she kept the ball in play,” Dvorak said.

   Overcoming a first set loss, 4-6, Dvorak rallied to win the second set 6-4 and won the tie breaker 10-7 against a scrappy Oshiro.

   “During the tournament my ground strokes were working really well and my serves were working,” she said.  “I probably need to work on my attacking and on my volleys at the net.”

  Dvorak’s coach, Evan Schermer, has played her in the older, more experienced brackets, in order to face stiffer competition.  “It was a joint decision between my coach, my mom and me to enter the 18 year old bracket,” Dvorak said.

Dvorak, 13, won the girls 18 bracket

Dvorak, 13, won the girls 18 bracket

    Dvorak’s mother, Rose, is the veteran tennis coach at St. Joseph High School.  “My mom has been helping me for years and my coach, Evan, has been coaching me for the past six months.  I owe a lot to my coaches and I’m very grateful,” she said.

“I lack enough playing time in the 18 year old bracket to be seeded, and I haven’t accumulated enough points.  That is why when I enter these tournaments I’m not seeded,” she said.

   The Fall Sectionals started on Friday evening with 115 juniors participating at three different sites which included Waiakea High, Hilo Intermediate and the Edith Kanaka’ole Tennis Stadium and ended with the finals on Monday.

    Earlier in the year Dvorak warmed up by playing in the 18 year old bracket of the West Hawaii District Junior Championships in May then went on to win the 14 year old division of the Nike Junior Tour tennis championships in June.

     To advance in the West Hawaii District tournament Dvorak need to get past three time Big Island Interscholastic Federation tennis champion, Sayo Tsukamoto of Kealakehe, winning in straight sets 6-2, 7-6.

    Next up for Dvorak is the Nike Tournament in California beginning on September 18.  “I’ve entered the 14 year old bracket and I’m hoping to do well,” she said.

    “I think she’s (Dvorak) an excellent player with a good all around game.  She is very competitive and has a promising future in tennis,” Tada said.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Junior Tennis | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment