PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Reigning District Champion Henry Madison sets sights on State Tournament

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Junior Henry Madison sends one back against Wimberley earlier this season. On Tuesday, Oct. 10, Madison won his singles match over Burnet en route to the Panthers’ first district win of the season as a team. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

Before he was winning district tennis titles at Liberty Hill High School, junior Henry Madison was playing the game with his mom at the local tennis courts.

“We live near a tennis court and my mom introduced me to the game because she plays and it kind of just took off from there,” Madison said. “I picked up my first racket in roughly the sixth grade. I was never too good in my younger days, but I really enjoyed playing the game.”

During his younger days at Liberty Hill Junior High, Madison secured two district championships in his division.

“I played in the seventh and eighth grade and won district in doubles play both of those years,” he said. “It wasn’t all me. In seventh grade, my partner was Cade Campbell and in eighth grade it was Coda Landers.”

After some success at the junior high level, Madison decided to pursue and improve his game at Liberty Hill High School. His freshman season was a success, ultimately ending with a trip to the Regional Tournament.

“I started playing seriously when I entered my freshman year and had the chance to be on the varsity team,” Madison said. “Freshman year, myself and Gunnar Ortega played doubles in spring and fall. We made it to Regionals that first year as alternates, which was an eye-opening experience. I started playing doubles, because I honestly wasn’t very good. When I got to high school, we had some seniors on the team who were pretty good players, so I played doubles as a freshman. Generally, your better players on the team play singles.”

After his freshman season, Madison knew he needed to up his game. He carved out a new focus and started a new journey as a singles player. The result was a first-place finish in his district.

“Heading into my sophomore year, I really started focusing on tennis,” he said. “Over the summer, I did some private lessons, and they generally work more on the singles game. I prefer to rely on myself when I play, rather than rely on another person, so moving to singles fit me. I won district as a sophomore and made it to the Regional Semifinals. I loved winning district and going into regionals as a sophomore. I wasn’t expecting a lot, but it was really cool winning. Going to Regionals, I had no clue what to expect. As a sophomore, I won my first round, then won my second and got to the Regional Semifinal, which was a huge accomplishment. I played this guy named Noah Wingate, who had taken third as a freshman and second as a sophomore. I lost 2-6,3-6, but he was better than me at that time. Since then, I have worked hard to improve and get better.”

Madison does not mind putting in the effort to become as good as he believes he can be. Some days, he will practice up to six hours of tennis on top of homework and other obligations.

“I try to play tennis every day,” he said. “Mondays and Wednesdays, I have school practice, then 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., I have a group lesson at Cimarron Hills. Then on some Mondays and Wednesdays, I will have a private lesson from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. I really do love playing the sport of tennis, and I love getting better. I’m really competitive and want to get better. I have played when I was not as good and played players better than me, so I wanted to get better. It was not a huge step up for me to make it to State, so I really wanted to work on my game.”

As a junior, Madison is the number one boys’ singles player at Liberty Hill High School, which means he typically faces the other team’s best player. He has worked to improve his game, and it is paying off.

“My overall game has improved so much between last season and this year,” he said. “The biggest things I have worked on is playing with more power and being more aggressive in my forehand and backhand. I went to an internationally ranked tennis camp last summer for three weeks in New Braunfels called Newks Tennis Camp. They improved everything about my game while I was there.”

This season his goal is clear in his mind. He wants to make a trip to the State Tournament.

“My goal is to make it to State and see how I compete against the other players there,” he said. “I also want to improve on my attitude and the way I play. I want to keep focus throughout my entire match and make sure I am playing loose. When I start tensing up and get angry, I don’t play as well, but if I play loose, I can compete with almost anyone.”

On Tuesday, Madison won his singles match against the Burnet Bulldogs by scores of 7-6 and 3-6 en route to the Panthers’ first district win as a team.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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