COLUMBIA — Staying level-headed is a big part of succeeding in tennis. Rock Bridge sophomore Blake Buchert is working on improving that part of his game.
Buchert was calm and collected in his two victories in the Bruins’ 9-0 dual win over Hickman Tuesday at Cosmopolitan Park. However, Buchert wasn’t always this relaxed on the court.
“Sometimes he has a reaction after points that underneath shows self-doubt,” coach Ben Loeb said.
Loeb said he has tried to get Buchert to focus on changing that.
“Last year I was more of the up-tempo person,” Buchert said. “Instead of focusing on what just happened, Coach made me focus on what I need to do to improve.”
Tuesday, Buchert was all smiles. At No. 4 singles he defeated Hickman senior Ben Levin 6-1, 6-2 in his first singles match since turning his ankle April 18 against DeSmet. Buchert said that playing singles again took some getting used to, but Loeb thought he did well.
“I wanted to put him in a position where he might not be pushed as much as at the No. 1, 2, or 3 spots.”
The 6’2” Buchert played for Rock Bridge’s junior varsity basketball team in the winter and uses his size to his advantage on the tennis court. He uses a lot of kick on his serve, but says his biggest strength is his volleying. He often tries to serve and volley in doubles and that was working against Hickman.
He teamed with freshman Aaron Skinner to defeat the Hickman team of senior Sang Chung and junior Alex Turner 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 doubles. The Bruin duo will play doubles together in districts and Buchert says he likes playing with Skinner.
“He’s short and funny,” Buchert said with a laugh. “He has the greatest hands I think I’ve ever seen.”
The only set the Bruins lost in the entire dual came at No. 3 singles. Rock Bridge junior and Hickman transfer Eemaun Latifi won 10-6 in the tiebreaker to defeat Turner.
“I was impressed with how Alex played at No. 3,” Loeb said. “He’s not going to beat himself.”
Hickman coach Andy Materer was also proud of the way Turner performed.
“He could have caved in (after losing the first set),” Materer said. “Instead, he fought, came back and improved.”
This is the second dual between the two teams this season. In the previous meeting, the Bruins also swept the Kewpies April 16 at Rock Bridge. Materer still thinks his team is better for playing Rock Bridge.
“I think the players would rather play a tough schedule and lose some than play a weaker schedule,” Materer said. “We’re focusing on improvement.”
The Kewpies’ (4-9) next match is May 6 when they host Hannibal. Rock Bridge (16-0) visits Helias Wednesday.