Tennis players shine at championships

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— Ranked fourth in a bracket of 32 of the region's best, Jamey Swiggart seemed confident going into his first match Saturday morning at the 14th annual Intermountain Memorial Day 12-and-under Tennis Championships.

"I finished third last year. It was pretty bad wind out, but it was a good warm-up," the 11-year-old Swiggart said about his 6-0, 6-0 win against Longmont's Spencer Lang.

Swiggart will continue to play in the winners "draw," with boys and girls, singles and doubles tournament play continuing until Monday's championship matches.

The U.S. Tennis Assoc--ia--tion's Intermountain section is a six-state region that includes Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Ida--ho, Wyoming and Montana. This weekend's tournament is an invitation-only, Inter--mountain Level 3 competition that draws premier youth players looking to gather points for their Intermountain and national USTA rankings.

For 12-year-old Christi Vali--centi, the other player representing Steamboat Springs at the tournament, the point-based ranking opportunity meant a lot of pressure to remain in the winner's bracket.

"My stomach was turning, and my heart was pounding," Valicenti said about her opening match against Englewood's Lauren Barlow.

The two were evenly matched, and despite losing her second set, Valicenti won, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.

"She got me on a few lobs and dinks when I came to the net, but when she did a dink-shot, I'd slam it on an angle," Valicenti said.

"Christi has visions of being a professional tennis player," said Marci Valicenti, Christi's mother. "Every sanctioned event works toward their rankings, so that means a lot of travel for us."

Jim Swiggart, Jamey's father and director of The Tennis Cen--ter at Steamboat Springs, said he thinks every tournament is a good chance to gather USTA ranking points. He said living in Steamboat places Jamey and Christi at a geographical disadvantage because they can only attend a limited number of events.

Swiggart said this weekend's tournament play should not be focused on points.

"We want them to play the best tennis they can," Swiggart said. "The level of play is excellent, but the difference is our emphasis on sportsmanship. We'll award the two top singles players, but you'll notice the only standing trophy at The Tennis Center is the sportsmanship trophy with the names kept on it awarded to one boy and girl nominated by tournament directors, umpires, players and parents."

The weekend tournament is free of charge, and the public is encouraged to attend.

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