Garrett Patton knew well what to expect when he faced Mitch Stewart on Thursday at the 123rd annual Pacific Northwest Open at the Tacoma Lawn Tennis Club.
They were friends, after all, and surely Patton knew Stewart, of Federal Way, had won the 2012 National Clay Courts Junior Tennis Championship in Delray Beach, Florida.
But what the player from Boise couldn’t have known, at least without experiencing it firsthand, was the extent of Stewart’s physical fitness.
While Patton walked to his bench to rest between sets and showing signs of fatigue, Stewart jogged briskly. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with a towel and took a drink from his water bottle. Then he was back on his feet.
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Stewart wasn’t only showing that he was still fresh —they were also his tactics.
“I try to make (my fitness) an intimidation factor,” Stewart said. “I’m not a big guy, but that’s my intimidation.”
Stewart, a recent graduate from Federal Way High who will play tennis at the University of Washington in the fall, advanced to the quarterfinals in the Men’s Open singles after dispatching Patton, a senior on Boise State’s tennis team, 6-2, 6-4.
“I felt like my movement was top notch, both of us weren’t striking the ball as good as we could have been,” Stewart said. “But with me moving the way I was, I knew if I just made a lot of balls and outworked him, I thought it would go my way and it did.”
He’ll play No. 1 seed Kyle McMorrow at 11 a.m. Friday at the Tacoma Lawn Tennis Club.
“He’s (McMorrow) a professional tennis player and UW All-American,” Stewart said. “I’m just going to go out there and have fun and whatever happens, happens.”
While Stewart isn’t a pro, his background should still make McMorrow wary.
While most of Class 4A competitors at the 2012 Washington State tennis singles championships were gearing up for a weekend of competition, Stewart was at Mount Tahoma High School competing in the 1,600-meter run at Star Track.
After placing sixth in state, Stewart headed to the Tri-Cities on the same day to compete in tennis. He won the tennis state title as a sophomore in 2012.
Stewart repeated as state champion in 2013, but wasn’t allowed to compete his senior season because he accepted money at a juniors tournament.
So, naturally, Stewart spent his time doing other things — like placing in three events (800 and 1,600 meters, and the 4x400-meter relay) at 2014 track and field state championships.
“I’ve never had to work so hard other than a track meet or track practice,” Stewart said. “It gets me really in shape for a match and makes me just feel like I should be able to outlast anybody on the courts. It gives me a lot more confidence.”
It’s Stewart’s second time competing in the open — he made it to the quarterfinals in 2012 — but he may know the courts better than anyone else.
“I grew up playing at this club,” Stewart said. “I’ve had so many pictures and memories here that I love coming back here. It’s gorgeous, the people are great, and honestly, I’m just blessed to be able to come out and put on a show for the people I love. I’m just having fun out here.”
A look at the future
Taylor Andersen of Gig Harbor certainly doesn’t look her age —she doesn’t play like it either.
But when facing a Division I athlete such as Barbara Carey, who will be a sophomore at Seattle University next year, it’s hard to blame Andersen for losing.
The tall and lanky 12-year-old lost to Carey, 6-0, 6-1, in the Round of 16 in the Women’s Open singles.
Andersen has been playing tennis for only two and a half years —long enough to know what she needs to improve upon.
“I need to get better at the net with my net shots,” Andersen said. “(Carey) would pass me. I just need to work more on the volleys.”
Carey was surprised to hear that Andersen was so young. She also had some advice for the budding player.
“Oh, she’s tall for a 12-year-old. She was good, too,” Carey said. “She was consistent and she can improve a lot. I think if she made a lot more balls and kept it deeper, she could have hung in there more.”