TOP-STORY

From Tenino to Tucson: A tennis journey

img-0339
Caitlin Claypool | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona's Colton Smith prepares to hit the ball during one of his singles matches on April 3 at Robson Tennis Center. The competition ended in Arizona's first victory over the University of California Berkley since 2004.

From the indoor tennis courts in his home state of Washington to the sunny outdoor courts in Tucson, Colton Smith has come a long way on his tennis journey.

Growing up in Tenino, Washington, Colton Smith was one of the top tennis recruits after graduating from Tumwater High School. He was recruited in 2020 by Clancy Shields, head coach of the University of Arizona men's tennis team.

Smith is in his freshman year at the UA and his first season on the Arizona men’s tennis team. He competed in the 2021 Junior U.S. Open and was ranked as the number seven prospect in the United States before becoming the highest-ranked American signee in Arizona history. He has fit right into the men’s tennis squad that is fresh off an appearance in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in 2021 and is looking to push even further this season.

“It's been super nice coming here, having 10 other guys that can play at a really high level. That's been super beneficial for me,” Smith said.

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT

The Arizona men’s tennis team is currently 18-5 on the season, and Smith has made some nice contributions to their success. The team recently had a big win on the road against the University of Southern California.

“[Smith] was a big piece of the puzzle in getting us to that point in singles, but it was just a total team effort as the first time we’ve ever beaten USC on their home court,” Shields said.

RELATED: Arizona men's tennis team looks to celebrate the senior class in winning fashion

Smith has come a long way from when he played tennis indoors only eight to nine months of the year due to the cold and rainy weather in Washington. He’s enjoyed working out with the team and getting to know them so far this season.

“I've had a great time bonding with the guys, spending time with everybody, road trips with the coaches. They’re super fun to be around. I feel like just with every trip you get close with all the guys and so that's something I really look forward to," Smith said.

Arizona has had a hot start to the season and Smith has been enjoying traveling on the road with the team as well.

“I had a really fun time in Tulsa,” he said. “That was pretty fun–most of the guys were there–and then regionals were also another really fun trip at Pepperdine because everybody was there and we were staying a little ways away, so we had a the road trip vibe a little bit every day and it was a really cool setting.”

Smith said doubles has been a part of the match that was emphasized during his first season training with the team. There isn’t one particular part of his game he's trying to grow, but it is something he has done a lot more recently than before. He is most focused on the overall growth of his game.

“I think my physicality has gotten a lot better since being here, playing a lot more tennis. I feel like the workouts are a lot more geared towards tennis, which has helped me. Doubles is something that has been emphasized a lot more since being here versus in the juniors because I never really trained with my doubles partner much,” Smith said.

Colton spent about 10 years training at Northwest High-Performance Tennis in Washington and being coached by Jody Rush. Shields said he knew it would take some time to get to know Smith's game.

“He's had a really good coach that he's worked with since he was eight years old,” Shields said. “I mean, he's been with this guy [Rush] for 10 years and then they hand him off to me. I almost feel like this first year for me is about feeling him out and trying to learn him and learn his game and, you know, not trying to screw it up. I think now we're finally kind of getting to a point where I understand how he works, I understand how he wants to be coached, understand what we're really wanting to do with his game. I'm really hoping, you know, in the next year that we're going to see some really big growth and I think we will.”

The potential for Smith and the Arizona men’s tennis team is evident, and Shields is focused on getting the most out of Colton during his years in Tucson. He doesn’t have much doubt sports fans outside Arizona will soon learn a lot more about Smith.

“The sky’s the limit," Shield said. "I mean, I think the kid can go all the way. I mean, he can play in the grand slams. He can play on the tour. I think we're kind of at the, at the ground floor right now, building that really strong base for him to take off of; but, I wouldn't be surprised if we were watching [him] on TV in a few years. I think he's going to be that good.”


Follow Alex Poor on Twitter



Share this article