Raymore-Peculiar’s Travis Hopkins became the first Panther tennis player, boy or girl, in school history to qualify for the state tournament.
“I’m really excited,” Hopkins said. “It didn’t really hit me until after the first match. Coach (Anthony Dabalos) pulled me aside and asked me if I realized it. And after that, I got really excited about it.”
Hopkins took second place in the Class 2, Sectional 7 tournament held May 15 at Belton. He defeated Lee’s Summit North’s Austin Nicholas in semifinals 2-6, 7-5 and 6-1, before losing to Lee’s Summit West’s Tanner Ferrell 2-6, 7-5 and 6-1.
The match against Ferrell was two hours and 40 minutes long, but Hopkins is used to it. In districts, he faced Ferrell for over two hours as well.
“My teammates were throwing bananas over the fence at me and I was like...guys,” Hopkins said. “But they were just being supportive. I’d like to play him again. He was a nice guy. It was a good match. I’d like to play again when I’m not beat up and tired, it would be fun.”
Hopkins got his start in tennis in seventh grade after playing with his father during the summer at Recreation Park in Raymore. He wanted to play soccer at first, but wasn’t interested in playing in high school.
“I thought I would try tennis,” Hopkins said. “I just stuck with it.”
He gets off-season lessons from a private coach at Overland Park Racquet Club where he gets to work on specific things to his game.
“One of things I kind of like and kind of don’t is that everybody can beat everybody,” Hopkins said. “If you having a bad day, even if you are better than them, they can beat you. A lot of it is mental. I just like the sport. It’s fun to do. It’s pretty fun to watch.”
The mental part is what Hopkins says he struggled with the most and is part of his plan so he can do well at state.
“My really big thing is I have to settle down and play how I play,” he said. “I get in a bad tendency, if somebody is a baseline player or a net player, I will try to match what they do. I can’t do that at state because everybody is going to be good. I’ll be able to hit and do everything also. I have to try and play my game. I’m an aggressive baseline player. I just need to settle in, start strong, because I usually don’t start very strong in matches, and go from there. The plan is to stay calm and do well.”
It’s a good thing that Hopkins will have a support system to cheer him on. At Raymore-Peculiar, all of the teachers and athletic director Tom Kruse have congratulated him on his success. His coaches, his family and some of his teammates will be at Springfield to watch him play as well.
“If the other guy doesn’t have anybody cheering for him, then the family doesn’t need to cheer or anything,” Hopkins said. “But if the other guy has somebody cheering for him, and you don’t, it’s a little rough. They will hit a good shot and everybody claps. Or the worse one is, if people are getting a little mean, if you miss a shot and they clap, that will throw you off. You just wish you had people there. Usually as long as the coach is there to support you, you can do pretty well.”
Hopkins, 19-3, will compete in the Class 2 state individual tournament May 24-25 at Cooper Tennis Complex, Springfield. Hopefully he will be able to stay focused and concentrate on swinging his way to a state title.
“I try to get my head in the game, stay calm and not freak out,” he said. “During through all the warm-ups, I try to stretch and keep loose and not get tight. Sometimes people warm up really well, and I’m like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to get killed,’ and then it turns out they aren’t that good. Or it turns out to be the opposite. So I just try to focus on myself because I have the tendency to try to match them or work on their game.”