By Eunice Kim
In a way, the school’s tennis courts are sectioned off from the more conspicuous athletics fields at Granada Hills Charter High School, including the John Elway stadium that overlooks our substantial football field.
There is a connection between this unassuming tennis court and senior Madelyn Davenport that goes deeper than her status as a player there.
At first impression, Davenport gives no immediate sign of her tennis playing prowess. The only thing that suggests her skills is her black Babolat tennis racket case, which she has slung around her shoulder since freshman year.
Likewise, although she easily maintains conversation regarding tennis, she doesn’t initiate discussion about how her practice goes or the games she’s successfully competed in. Even her dark blue 40 oz Hydro Flask, which many athletes tend to proudly decorate with stickers, is bare. It only serves to emphasize her enigmatic, often inscrutable, character.
Unbeknownst to some, Davenport has been playing tennis avidly since she was a child. She has continued to pursue the sport throughout her high school career. Davenport has daily practice at school from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., which easily illustrates her fervent dedication for tennis.
Although tennis is an individual sport as much as a team game, Davenport makes the willful choice to practice at school with her peers. Such a routine demands commitment. Yet Davenport focuses on her interest in the sport more than the time consumption.
“Tennis is my passion. It is a way I can de-stress from a hard day, and it is also very fun and rewarding because practice and effort is directly translated into every shot I hit,” Davenport said.
She and her partner begin practice with alternate serving, volleying, and playing back. When one person volleys near the net, the other player plays back at the baseline and attempts to set the volleyer up to put the ball away.
Since freshman year, Davenport has played in doubles, which unlike in singles, uses a wider court to hold four players competing against each other rather than two.
“While playing, specifically in doubles, it is important to always keep your feet moving and your eyes focused because oftentimes points happen really fast, so we need to be ready,” Davenport said.
Watching her play sheds light onto a different side of her seemingly reserved persona. On the courts, Davenport is attentive and driven to dominate the game. There is still the composed, soft energy to her that she carries with her in class, but she also displays an innate, wholehearted zeal.
Her eyes never stray from her personal sphere and her feet never linger on the ground. She moves quickly with purpose to hit the ball to her opponent, movements so swift and deliberate that the ball seems to gravitate toward her racket. In regards to hitting the tennis ball, Davenport employs an important technique; she picks a spot before hitting the ball so that she has the means to hit it as best as she can. Before winning the point, it’s crucial for her to be decisive.
“She’s not nervous when she plays. She’s very focused. It’s her daily routine, but she’s driven about it. She wants to do it,” junior Lauren Delgado said.
Such rules of playing entail not only quick, attentive moves but also camaraderie between her and her teammates, which Davenport thoroughly enjoys. Since joining the team, she has shared a deep bond between her teammates. Moreover, they have encouraged her to push her own boundaries and strive for intensity in games.
“I always want to better myself, and I think that practicing with other players keeps me driven to be the best that I can,” Davenport said.
Like any other sport, after all, the team’s end goal is winning. However, Davenport equally values the idea of community with winning. She helps ensure that her team members are all in full support of one another through both wins and losses. As one who plays doubles, mutual support for her partner is particularly crucial to balance out team responsibilities on the court.
This year, Davenport has taken on a leadership role as co-captain. She organizes team events and takes care of the logistics of her team with the other captain.
“I have to step up and be a role model during practices and games. It’s a lot of fun to watch the younger players on the team go through certain things for the first time like their first home match or our first bus ride because I remember how much my first home match meant to me,” Davenport said.
Being a captain is a responsibility that Davenport is still adjusting to, but she humbly accepts the challenge. She confessed that the role has not come without pressure. Even though she is a captain, she is still striving to be more consistent with her shots, so there is the added pressure of helping others while still learning herself. Yet, she displays a constant desire to succeed, to be a consistent leader and a role model for her fellow team members. Davenport recognizes that there’s always room for growth, and she never shies away from it. She wholeheartedly accepts the call and steadies her position for the next hit.
The tennis court is reminiscent of Davenport in many ways, but there is a deeper aspect to it. Upon opening that latched metal door, one can see that there is so much beyond what the exteriors present.