After a lackluster performance in a 6-1 loss to Colorado on Saturday, Missouri tennis coach Blake Starkey found few bright spots in the first outdoor match of the season for the Tigers. However, when asked about the play of senior Amanda Pratzel, Starkey’s expression brightened, and his tone changed drastically.
“Amanda did what she does,” Starkey said. “She’s a joy to watch.”
Starkey has reason to be happy with his No. 2 singles player. Pratzel won her fourth-straight singles match and fifth match out of her past six with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Camila Belassi. Starkey noted that the attitude Pratzel brings into every match was a catalyst to her success.
“She plays the game with a lot of heart,” he said. “She’s 10-feet tall and bulletproof.”
According to Starkey, there is a story behind the phrase that comes from Pratzel’s high school days at Parkway Central in St. Louis. According to Starkey, an opponent continually made snide comments about the 5-foot-6 Pratzel’s size. Pratzel shouted back, “I’m 10-feet tall,” in response.
Pratzel downplayed the story, saying the moniker is a reference to her tenacious style of play. Either way, she says her competetive streak pushes her to succeed.
“I try and go in every match and play hard,” Pratzel said. “I go in thinking I’m not going to lose, no matter what.”
Her win over Belassi provides an example of her tenacious style.
“I was up three (games) to zero, but I thought, ‘It’s only the first set. It’s still 0-0,’” Pratzel said. “I was ahead the whole time, but I still had to play the game the whole way through.”
Pratzel’s attitude makes her valuable to the team, said Starkey, who wishes his senior had more time left at MU.
“I wish she was a freshman,” Starkey said. “I’d like to have her around longer if I could.”
Unfortunately for Starkey, Pratzel’s eligibility is up at season’s end. Pratzel will have spent time in three tennis programs by the time she leaves MU, having transferred from Oklahoma last spring, after having spent her first two seasons at Missouri State. Although she has been a Tiger for a short time, Pratzel says, in the end, she ended up in the right place.
“I feel that Mizzou was the best place for me,” Pratzel said. “It was the best fit. I ended up here for a reason.”
Despite her recent success as a Tiger, the hard-working Pratzel said she still sees much room for improvement.
“I’m playing all right, but I could still do better,” Pratzel said.
Regardless, Starkey has noticed her improvement on the court during her short time at MU.
“She’s always got that (competetive) mentality in practice,” he said. “She’s really grown a lot as a player.”