Monday, 27 June 2011

Tennis Player Girl

VERO BEACH -- Competitive tennis can wreak havoc on a player's nerves, and countless books have been written on how to best master the sport's mental challenges.

While Vero Beach standout Natalie Collins admits to reading one such book -- "Mind Games" -- she has experienced few anxious moments on the court in four years of varsity tennis.

She never lost a high school match to a Treasure Coast opponent. She won a state doubles title in 2007 and was a runner-up this year in state singles competition. And she cites her calm disposition as an asset that enabled her to become one of the best players ever to come out of this area.

"When I play under pressure, I don't have any fear of losing," Collins said. "I just go for it more."

It's that attitude that helped make Collins the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers' girls tennis Player of the Year -- for the fourth straight time.

Some might think opponents would resent Collins for all the beatings she has handed out. However, her high school coach, Theresa VanDerMolen, said she probably will be remembered more for her quiet and polite court demeanor and the grace with which she won.

"She doesn't get into those head games that most tennis players do," VanDerMolen said. "She's just a friendly competitor on the court."

Collins said she began playing tennis at age 9, and it was the only sport she ever concentrated on. She credits much of her success to her father, Tom, a former local tennis pro.

Having confidence in her game, she said, was every bit as important as maintaining her composure on the court.

"You can't go out there with an attitude," Collins said. "You have to go out there feeling relaxed and confident."


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