Deep in Heart of Tennis

The Texas Story Project.

They say love conquers all, but in tennis, love means nothing.

She was down 0 to 3 in what could easily have been the last match in her high school tennis career. As they were changing sides she was thinking about all the places that had brought her to this point. She played in the flatlands of Midland to the windy desert in Fort Stockton, all the way down in the sub-tropical climate of the Texas Rio Grande Valley. Her tennis career has taken her all the way around the state and suddenly all those years of traveling appeared to be drawing to an end.

My sister, Sarah Mares, was 7 years old when she first picked up a racket and began to learn the game that would take her and her family all across Texas for the next decade. “I remember one of our first trips out of San Antonio for a tournament was to Austin. It was interesting playing outside of my hometown, and I soon came to enjoy playing in a new setting.” Austin was the first place of many where Sarah would travel to compete. Throughout her teenage years Sarah and her family packed their bags into the car and traveled on Friday nights to whatever new destination junior tennis tournaments would take them.

On a hot July weekend in Waco, Texas, Sarah was competing in a junior level tournament trying to qualify for junior championship status. “I remember playing in the final against a girl from Dallas. The heat was sweltering and our shirts were drenched in sweat, but despite the weather I knew that I was so close to qualifying for championship level that mentally, nothing could stop me,” Sarah recalls. In a close match, Sarah came out victorious as a qualifying championship level tennis player at the age of 14.

After she won her first junior level tournament, she then re-qualified after aging up to Girls 16s at another junior tournament in her hometown of San Antonio. As she began high school, Sarah became a part of the Varsity tennis team at Health Careers High School and continued to compete and travel over those four years, “I really enjoyed team tennis when I was first introduced to it in high school. The fact that I was competing alongside my teammates made me feel like I was no longer alone on the court and gave me the motivation I needed to win.”

Her junior year of high school, she and her doubles partner, Sabrina, won first place at Northside ISD’s district tournament and went on to compete at the regional tournament. After her doubles partner graduated that year, Sarah knew how important it was to finish out her high school tennis career as best as she could since she sensed the end drawing near. “I remember my very last high school tennis match I was down 0 to 3 and I reflected on all the previous tournaments I had played in my life, and all the traveling my family and I did to compete in this sport that changed my life.” In what would have been her final match of her high school career, Sarah was playing in that same mindset that she did back at the tournament in Waco, Texas when she qualified as a junior champion. That same 14-year-old girl who found the will to win in Waco, came back from 0-3 to win her final high school match and end her career as strong as she intended to. In that last match, Sarah had to take what she had, which was nothing, and use that love to mentally bring herself to a point where she knew she could come out of this match successfully.

David Mares is a Biology major at St. Mary’s University located in San Antonio, TX.

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