Even when he is not playing for the West Springfield varsity tennis team, Ken Anderson finds it hard to stay off the court. Even in the midst of the Northern Region championship tournament, in which he won both the singles and the doubles titles, Anderson stopped by the Shirley Racquet Club and advanced to the semifinals of its men's open.
"Well, it was supposed to be an off day," Anderson said with a laugh, "but I just got into the tournament."
Anderson has long been involved in athletics. The senior played for two years in the West Springfield basketball program before deciding to devote himself full time to tennis in the winter. But, even now, he stills finds time to be a relief pitcher for the Spartans' baseball team -- sometimes on the same day he competes in tennis.
"The (baseball) coach is a tennis player, and he just says, 'Show up when you can,' " said Anderson. "I spend so much time in tennis, all I do is pitch. We had a game with Lake Braddock at home and I pitched the ninth and 10th innings (for the win) after I had a tennis match earlier in the day. I don't get tired that day (after playing both sports). It hits me afterward."
Anderson will have little time to relax after this week's state tennis tournament at E.C. Glass High in Lynchburg. He will be playing in several tournaments following exams and graduation while preparing for his freshman season at Virginia, where he will pursue an undergraduate degree in business or business administration. ("I was going to major in architecture, but there's not enough time in the day for tennis and architecture.")
Anderson does find plenty of time for tennis, however.
"I'll take a couple of days, maybe a week break," Anderson said. "But, there are some juniors, men's and national tournaments . . . and the hard-court championships in California and the MALTA (Middle Atlantic Lawn Tennis Association). I get up in the morning, play a couple of hours, go to the pool, and then play another hour. There are plenty of people to play with. No matter what time, I can always find someone to play."
Anderson analyzes his game carefully, whether or not in organized competition. "You have to analyze each match, even the easy ones and the ones you get blown out," Anderson said.
"He always tries to play the opponent the best way possible to win. He analyzes the other player's game and figures strategy," said West Springfield Coach Frank Pilley. "The good thing about Ken is that he has an all-court game: a good net game, good serve and volley. He has off-speed as well as hard shots.
"He can play more of a total game," Pilley went on. "Few high school players that I've seen have this type of ability. Most try to overpower their opponents. Kenny uses a mixture of tactics. He has a lot of tricks to use."
Anderson was at his best last week when he rallied to defeat defending state champion Lee Bell of Oakton, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2.
"He played real well in the first set," said Anderson. "It was a little windy and I was used to playing inside, but I wasn't as worried as you might think. Pretty soon I hit a few, he missed a few, and I got an early service break. That's why I won; I hit enough ground strokes to go to the net."
The match was just one of several between the two, regarded by many as the best in Northern Virginia. Anderson also beat Bell in the final of the Grand Prix Tournament at the Four Seasons Racquet Club in early March.
"It helps my ranking. For me, it's an advantage (playing in MALTA), because you know their game and what they are going to do. It's all mental, I think."
Anderson often has a psychological edge when playing in club tournaments because of his age. He admitted some of his middle-aged oppoents are surprised to see him on the other side of the net. "I'm only 18 and everyone else is older," he said, "You're not expected to win, until you get a reputation."
With his latest accomplishments, Anderson is finding it increasingly difficult to remain anonymous. "There are so many good people around, that as you get better, you find more and more people to play at that level," Anderson said. "But some people have stopped calling to play."