COLUMBIA — Alyssa Williams has a strategy to compensate for playing tennis against girls as much as four years older than her. It starts with hitting the ball hard. There doesn’t really need to be much more to it than that.
Starting with her blistering serve, Williams' game is like a closer throwing nothing but fastballs and daring the batter to do something about it. Forehands, backhands, at the net — if she can get to the ball, it’s almost certainly rocketing back deep into the other side of the court.
It can be frustrating at times, watching her send a ball sail beyond the baseline when she’s nearly backed her opponent up against the chain link fence surrounding the courts at Cosmo-Bethel Park. More often, though, her shots streak past her opponents before they have even had a chance to process where it’s going to land.
“I don’t really know how to describe my game. It’s just mine,” Williams said. “It’s different from other people’s. I’m aggressive.”
The results are impossible to dispute. Williams claimed a gold medal at the Show-Me State Games on Saturday, winning the under-18 bracket on just her 14th birthday.
Williams defeated 17-year-old Kate Walkenhorst 6-1, 6-2 to earn her third straight singles gold medal. Walkenhorst, a native of Washington, Mo., also received the silver medal last year after falling to Williams in the under-16 competition.
Walkenhorst, who competed in her fifth Show-Me State Games this year, said she comes back to the event to play against a greater variety of players than she would at home. Running into Williams, she certainly gets a worthy competitor.
“It’s difficult,” Walkenhorst said of facing off against Williams. “She’s just a really good player.”
While Walkenhorst got into tennis after watching her mother compete in a tournament, Williams found the sport almost by accident. After the end the basketball season seven years ago, William's mother asked her if she wanted to compete in a different sport. Tennis was a possibility.
Within three years, Alyssa Williams was playing above her age group.
“I just wanted to play people who were older, so I could get better,” Williams said.
Williams, who plays in a healthy array of competitions, returns to the Show-Me State Games for the opportunity to play in front of her family. She lives in Grandview near Kansas City, but relatives from Columbia and St. Louis get to see her play at the games.
Williams, who is not even in high school yet, has high hopes for her future in tennis.
“I’m going to try to get a high school scholarship and then a college scholarship,” Williams said. “I’m probably going to try to keep playing in college.”
If her drive is anything like her shots, she should be almost impossible to stop.