Givens takes nothing for granted, has big junior season
by Andrew Stark
After qualifying for the Class 4A individual state championships in 2011, Butler junior boys tennis player Blake Givens knew that to get back to that level this season would be a challenge. So instead of resting on the fact that he was an all-state performer last year, Givens started working on what he saw as one of his greatest shortcomings – his backhand.
The work he put in with Bulldogs coach Joey Majdanski and Eric Abrams, an instructor at Sardis Swim and Racquet Club, turned one of his weaknesses into a strength, as Givens became one of the Southwestern 4A conference’s best players this season.
“Blake had a spectacular year,” said Majdanski. “He exceeded all expectations, even his own. He definitely earned his place among the elite. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it to states, but the competition was definitely a step up from last year. This has only made him (hungrier) for his senior year.”
Although he didn’t make the state tournament this year, Givens had a successful season, finishing with a 14-3 record. His only three losses came against Ardrey Kell state qualifiers Mike Roberts (once) and Jim Fan (twice). With his outstanding record, a win at the regional tournament and an all-conference selection, Givens has earned the 2012 Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly Boys Tennis Player of the Year award for the second consecutive season.
“I think I had a great year,” Givens said. “Of course, I wanted to make states, but to only lose to Ardrey Kell was good.”
Majdanski watched Givens, along with his twin brother and fellow all-conference selection, Tyler, take on more of a leadership role with the Bulldogs’ inexperienced roster.
“Blake and Tyler definitely stepped it up in the offseason to become the clear-cut top two on the team,” Majdanski said. “The other players realized this and immediately looked to them to lead our team. Whenever the team would lose but Blake or Tyler were still out there battling, I could tell the rest of the team was proud to cheer them on.”
Givens said he could see the difference in camaraderie with this year’s squad and hopes that the strong team bond will translate into more wins next year.
“I am hoping that we can be one of the better teams because a lot of the top teams are losing good players,” Givens said. “I want to be one of the top players in the conference and continue to be a leader.”
As was the case last offseason, Givens has already begun working with Abrams on the two things he perceives as weaknesses: his serve and volley. He’s also attending a tennis camp at Texas A&M University and plans to play in a few local tournaments.
More than anything, he hopes to build on the past two seasons and close his high school career on a high note.
“My main goal for next year is to make states again,” Givens said. “I know it will take hard work to get there, and it would be great to have it all pay off in the end.”