Leaving his mark | SteamboatToday.com

Leaving his mark

Local junior tennis player ranked No. 1

— Imposing isn’t the first word that comes to mind when describing Jamey Swiggart.

His slight build, friendly smile and shy personality are not the types of characteristics one might expect to strike fear in opposing players, especially when they are standing 78 feet away, on the other end of a tennis court.

But this summer, Jamey’s hard-driving serve, a punishing forehand and a solid backhand have been imposing. They have allowed Jamey, who will turn 12 this week, to capture the No. 1 ranking in the state for his age division.

“I don’t really think about the ranking that much,” Jamey said. “I guess it’s an advantage because the other players are already intimidated when they walk on the court, and you get a little better draw in the tournaments. But I still have to go out there and play the match.”

Jamey’s busy summer schedule began in March with a second-place finish at the Meadow Creek Junior Open in Denver. It continues this week in Omaha, Neb., where he hopes to make a run at the 12-and-under zonal championships, an elite-level tournament that draws the top juniors from across the country.

“We told him that the rankings are not important,” said Jim Swiggart, Jamey’s dad and the director of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Jim Swiggart, Don Toy and John Aragon have coached Jamey and monitored his on-court progress for a number of years.

“What is important is that he continues to develop as a player and that he continues to improve his game as he gets older,” Jim Swiggart said.

Behind Jamey in the state rankings for players 12 and younger are Littleton’s Hayden Sabatka, who Jamey beat in the finals of the Young Guns Championship in March, and Michael Ogez.

Jamey beat Ogez at the Intermountain Tennis Association’s Memorial Day tournament, which was held in Steamboat in May.

“The most important thing for Jamey is to keep playing tennis and to improve as a player. Michael Chang never lost to Pete Sampras when he was a young man. But it was the other way around when they got older,” Jim Swiggart said, referring to the retired men’s tennis stars.

But the drive to get on the court doesn’t seem to be a problem for Jamey, who has spent his summer playing as much tennis, basketball and soccer as possible.

“I just love the game,” Jamey said. “Normally I go from one sport to another, but when I have a choice, tennis always comes first.”

He expects to trim his tennis load back a bit when school resumes in late August, but Jamey said there always is time to play tennis.

He recently returned from the National 12-and-under Championships in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“My goal was just to win one match there — and I did that,” Jamey said.

Jamey went 1-2 in the tournament.

Jamey said his goal is to keep improving and be at the top of his game by the time he reaches high school. To do that, he works out with his coaches, plays in the junior academy at the Tennis Center and, whenever possible, tries to get a match with high school players.

His father feels as if his son’s future is bright as long as he doesn’t lose sight of what’s really important — having a good time on the court and improving his game no matter where he is ranked.

“He should be proud of that ranking, but he needs to realize that the ranking is the result of his efforts to become a better player, not just winning matches on the court,” Jim Swiggart said.

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