Summers are traditionally the time when school-aged kids get to kick back, sleep in and just enjoy the best three months of the year.
But for Alejandro Sadighi, this summer meant traveling throughout the Midwest and Pacific Northwest to compete against some of the best tennis players in the country.
Sadighi, 17, is set to begin his junior year at Juneau-Douglas High School. He is already one of the finest tennis players in Juneau with three state singles and one doubles tennis titles under his belt.
However, Alaska is not exactly a hotbed for tennis in the United States. So, in order for Sadighi to gain some national recognition, he must travel long distances to prove his worth among tournament-tested players from the Lower 48.
"The competition was tough," said Sadighi, who was ranked as high as 66th in the Pacific Northwest last year. "A lot of the kids play tournaments all the time. They are tournament tough. I've done all right in Alaska, but it's not even close to the competition down south."
Together with doubles teammate Lukas Bouton of Fairbanks, Sadighi first made his way to Oscota, Mich., where his coach Ron Hohman owns a home. Hohman also owns another home in Juneau and coaches Sadighi and others throughout the year.
"The first month in the Midwest was mostly training and physical conditioning," Sadighi said. "It was to get ready for the tournaments in the Pacific Northwest."
Sadighi competed in three tournaments in the Midwest, winning the Nike Camp tournament at the Michigan State University campus in late June. He then traveled to the Pacific Northwest and competed in six more tournaments, making it as far as the semifinals in a main draw competition.
In doubles, Sadighi and Bouton claimed one first-place and three second-place finishes in Pacific Northwest tournaments.
"Last year I went down there and really got killed -- I hardly won a set," Sadighi said. "This year, something happened. I got confidence and started winning more and more. I think it was from knowing I can play with those kids."
"Technically, he's got all the strokes and his footwork is great," Hohman said. "He's such a good kid, but he's got to be a little more methodical and patient. I'm confident he can do that."
Recently, Sadighi has been the catalyst behind forming a high school tennis team. "I've talked to the principal, Deb Morse, four or five times. She makes it sound like it's a realistic goal, but not for this year."
"We're going to keep working with administration, but the problem is that tennis isn't sanctioned by anyone," Sadighi said. "So schools just put together teams and play each other. It will be more like a club sport."
Sadighi cites travel expenses, court time and having enough opponents to play as the main obstacles in the way of forming the team.
But Hohman -- although an advocate of forming a tennis team -- says the time Sadighi spends getting a team together can take away from his personal goals.
"My purpose is to try to get Alex a scholarship at some college," Hohman said. "The high school team is a possibility, but if he spends all his time with that, it will detract from his other stuff."
The next thing on the agenda for the blossoming tennis star is possibly taking second semester off to play tennis in Florida.
"He's at a big disadvantage playing in Alaska," Hohman said. "The next week or so, we are going to sit down with his parents and discuss his future. What I am trying to do is to sponsor him to play in the Junior Davis Cup. It's all set up -- it's just a matter of him doing it. Just being a player in the tournament means a lot of recognition."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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