HUNTERSVILLE – Jessica Brannon, a 9-year-old tennis player, made a huge breakthrough at a recent tournament.
She was invited to play in the Southern Closed Championship on June 13-16 in Lexington, S.C. She went into the tournament unseeded while 16 out of 64 girls were seeded, which meant that all Brannon’s matches would be against highly ranked players. Over four days she won 40 sets and only lost eight against the highest ranked players in the state.
“When I go into a match, I am usually really confident,” Brannon said.
To get into the Championship, she played in the Tar Heel Qualifier, which is the largest tournament in North Carolina. At the Qualifier, she placed in the top 5 which gained her access to play in the Southern Closed.
She also plays soccer with Huntersville Elementary School to help keep her prepared for tennis. Playing soccer helps her gain strength. It also helps with agility and balance. She plays with the Huntersville’s Lake Norman Soccer Club Under-11 Glaswegians. In addition to tennis and soccer, she runs with the track team competing in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter events.
Brannon has played tennis since summer 2011, when she was 6. To her, tennis is a sport that allows her to be on her own and have responsibility. When she plays soccer, she has teammates to help with responsibilities. She likes to be in control and know that it’s up to her to win.
“I really enjoy tennis, I’m just on my own and do whatever I want,” Brannon said.
She is ranked fourth in the state by the USTA (United States Tennis Association) in the 10-and-under girls division. The girls who are in the top three spots will age out of the 10 and under group next year. This will have Brannon going into next season in the No. 1 spot. She is also ranked eighth in the 10-and-under division in the USTA Southern Region, which includes nine states.
She trains locally with the Clay Allen Tennis Academy in the North Mecklenburg Park. She trains at the Elite/Advanced Tournament level with other players her age and older with the Academy. She has worked with Allen for two years and gained experience in the game.
“She listens very well and is good at listening to strategy on how to play points, defense, offense and neutral balls," Allen said. "She has been fast to learn there are strategies to the game."
Brannon spends two days per week training with Allen and spends most of her extra time playing with her father, Jim, or training in private lessons with Allen.
She also watches tennis to see how professionals play and what she can change to be better. She plans to watch Wimbledon and the U.S. Open on television. Her father watches with her to help point out the important moves made that can help in her matches.