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.
“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.