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Fourteen-year-old tennis player powers past older players at Show-Me State Games

Saturday, July 30, 2011 | 9:39 p.m. CDT; updated 5:25 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 31, 2011

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.


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Comments

Daniel McGonigal Sr. August 1, 2011 | 7:55 a.m.

RE: Fourteen-year-old tennis player powers past older players at Show-Me State Games - Columbia Missouri
Mr. Ken Ash, I am throughly disappointed in the handling of the 18 and under girls tennis gold medal match. Ms. Alyssa Williams and Ms. Kate Walkenhorst were in the third game,(30-40),of the second set of the championship match when rain cause a delay in the action. After approx. 45 minutes to and hour the courts were dry and the match could continue. I believe there were 3 or 4 other matched be played on this set of courts when the stoppage had occurred. I am positive they were not gold medal or championship matches. The person directing play at the courts required someone (I questioned "How wet do the courts have to get before you will stop play ?" Her response was " Oh, Is it raining?") to inform her the courts were too wet for play prior to the stoppage. When the two competitors re-took the court, they were playing on, to finish their match, they were removed from the court, by the director of competition at the courts for the more pressing consolation or backdraw match. I have been going to tennis tournaments for 6-7 years, to the Show Me State Games for 5 years and have never seen a backdraw match take procedence over a championship match. The view of what occurred seemed to be racially motivated to me, because none of the other matches being played on the same set of courts were delayed. Ms. Williams was the only Black girl in this tournament, Her family were the only blacks there in attendance at the courts, some drove 200 mile to see this match. I am a White male and i thought the injustice done to this young lady was outrageous, I brought this to the directors attention and she stated She was attempting to keep the Doubles matches on schedule, however there was no way that would happen if she had consulted many of the spectator, white or black, who were watching the weather radar on their smart phones and saw another rain shower coming towards the city of Columbia. The Director stated to me she was looking at the "BIGGER PICTURE" and i was only concerned with one match. She is correct i was concerned with only one match, I was concerned with the Gold Medal Match which was taken off of the court by the director of play for a lesser match. The advantage to being n the championship match is to play during the time slot given without delay for matches that have no bearing on the medals, and to play during the best conditions. These two young ladies did nothing wrong however they were penalized by a director of play who was not paying attention to the weather or apparently the importance of one match versus the other. Weather the move was racially motivated or not the opinion of the spectators who i spoke with was disheartening.It is unfortunate that i feel the need to write this letter to you, I will forward this to "The Columbian Newspaper so that this may be followed up in the public eye.

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