With a background in baseball, 10-year-old Oliver Keller already has some experience with swinging, making his recent transition to tennis relatively smooth.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment, though, is avoiding the temptation to use his racket like a bat and smashing the ball with all his might, sending it flying out of bounds.
Lesson No. 1 when it comes to transitioning from baseball to tennis: restraint is a virtue.
“When you’re playing baseball, you kind of want to hit it as long as you can,” he said. “In tennis, you kind of want to put some spin on it.”
Oliver and his older brother, 12-year-old Gareth, have both become more acquainted with the court in the past year, ultimately leading them to participate in this year’s Western Slope Open, the 63rd rendition of the event, at the Elliott Tennis Center at Colorado Mesa University.
While the decision to take up tennis was partly made by their mother, Cassie, both have quickly found a fondness for the sport.
“My mom said we should try something while baseball’s off, and then me and my brother started liking it, so we kept playing,” Oliver said.
Gareth has played baseball for most of his life, starting when he was about 5 years old. He’s played travel baseball for a couple of seasons and played for the 12-and-under Mavericks this past season. Oliver plays for the 11U Mavs.
For both, their Mav teammates helped further develop their interest in tennis, thanks to one quality inherent in two sports that, otherwise, are worlds apart in structure.
“No. 1, I was inspired by a couple of my friends because it looked super fun. No. 2, swinging a baseball bat and using a tennis racket are along the same lines, so I thought it would be kind of fun to try it out,” Gareth said. “When I did, it just seemed really enjoyable, so I kept going out to work on it. If you ask any of my baseball friends, I bet you they’d say the same thing. It’s very similar, despite not using two hands, to swinging a baseball bat.”
Oliver played in a nearly two-hour match Saturday in the 14/12 U.S. singles bracket before falling to Khorben Blair 6-4, 7-6. Gareth, having lost Friday, won 6-2, 2-6, 10-7 over Finn Brown in Saturday morning’s 14/21 French singles consolation bracket before falling in three sets in the consolation semifinals.
For both relative newcomers to tennis, their results haven’t dampened their enthusiasm for continuing to improve and hone their skills.
“My friends help,” Oliver said. “Running is more fun in tennis (than baseball), too.”
“Throughout the winter, I was still interested in it and I really enjoyed it, so I worked on it, and some of my baseball buddies actually did it with me,” Gareth added. “The tournaments came around and it interested me a lot to do it, so I wanted to throw myself out there and try it out, and I did. So far, I’ve been enjoying it a lot.”