Tennis has captivated young teen who’s winning provincially and nationally

After tiring of watching her sister, Madison, play tennis, Kirsten Prelle took up the sport herself at the age of 5.

Tennis player Kirsten Prelle returned from Vancouver recently as the Girls Flight 4 Champion in the Under 14 Rogers Junior National Championships.

Tennis player Kirsten Prelle returned from Vancouver recently as the Girls Flight 4 Champion in the Under 14 Rogers Junior National Championships.

After tiring of watching her sister, Madison, play tennis, Kirsten Prelle took up the sport herself at the age of 5.

“My sister signed up for tennis camp in the summer and got hooked on it, started taking lessons,” said Kirsten. “I got tired of watching her play, started taking lessons and haven’t stopped since.”

That was in 2005 and in the past eight years, she’s propelled herself to the top ranks in Canada, most recently winning the Girls Flight 4 championship at the Under 14 Rogers Junior Nationals in Vancouver.

“In the nationals you compete against the top girls from across Canada,” said Kirsten. “It’s good experience, you see how you measure up to the other players.”

This wasn’t the first award for the 13-year-old who plays and practises year-round. She was named provincial champion in the U14 category this year to progress to the nationals. She won the honour competing several years ago in the U10 category.

She’s also travelled to Italy where she was part of Team Canada participating in the European Tennis Association U12 tour. During the month in Europe, she competed in three tournaments with athletes from all over the world — Australia, Britain, South Africa, Italy and Russia to name a few.

“She met lots of kids, it was fantastic,” said her mother, Cynthia.

Following her most recent accomplishment at the nationals, she’s been invited to two national events — the Roman Cup at the Rideau Club in Ottawa and the Quebec Junior Open in Laval. These are back-to-back events at the end of July and early in August.

Her next goal is to qualify for nationals at Mont Tremblant, Quebec following participation in provincial championships at Red Deer in late June.

Prelle practices four or five times a week and then participates in tournaments on the weekends. She also does fitness training twice a week at Ignite which is part of an athlete enhancement program provided by Alberta Sport Development Centre.

Cynthia said the centre’s program includes seminars on motivation, mental skills and time management as well as the fitness training. “It’s a great program for Red Deer.”

Coach Rene Simon, also from Sylvan Lake, trains Prelle at the Red Deer Tennis Club. “He’s been such a great help ever since I got here,” said Kirsten. “I’ve been training here a year and a half and he has help me accelerate my game so much.”

Since Simon is an active competitor, she said he’s able to share mental skills on how to behave on the court, slow down, take your time, think about what you’re doing and if there’s something you can do differently.

Her hitting partner is Tyler Begg, another Sylvan resident.

Tennis consists of two seasons, Kirsten said. The indoor season, which runs from October to the end of February, just finished with the nationals in late March. Then the outdoor season runs from April to July with nationals in August.

There’s a good group of competitors in the province. In her first tournament next weekend, the draw includes 29 girls from across Alberta.

Currently Kirsten is a student at Sylvan Lake Career High Outreach school. “They’re really good, making it flexible for me to attend practices and tournaments and still get all my work done,” she said.

She also credits her sister, Madison, as being “a really big inspiration. Without her I would never really have started. She’s always been the benchmark of where I wanted to go in my tennis career.”

The pair practice together and play in doubles competitions. This year, however, Madison is suffering a rotator injury which has hampered her play.

Last year they played in three 5.0 doubles tournaments winning all of them.

5.0 is the highest level of play before a tennis player enters the open category. “We love doubles so we play in the adult tournaments,” said Kirsten. Once you’re into the U14 category you’re eligible to play in adult tournaments, she explained. There’s a broader pool of competitors to play against there.

The nice thing about the Red Deer Tennis Club is it has a lot of adult players so they play doubles once a week.

She started playing at the Newmarket Tennis Club in Ontario. Since her family has moved a lot for work, she’s played at different clubs across Canada ever since, including the Saville Centre in Edmonton, the World Health Centre in Calgary and Rexall Centre in Toronto, the home of Tennis Canada.

While living in Cochrane, prior to their move to Sylvan Lake, Kirsten took time off her training to coach youngsters in the sport of tennis.

 

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