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Good friends don’t always share.
That’s the situation with the battle to be Jennings County’s No. 1 singles player. Tod Brown and Owen Land are friends off the court, but they don’t mind beating each other up on it.
Their rivalry is a highlight of the Panthers’ practice sessions, and eventually, it should make both better.
Unfortunately, there is just one No. 1 spot to go around.
“He’s tough to beat around the net,” Brown said of Land, whose previous doubles play makes him dangerous up close. “I’m better than he is at ground strokes. When it came time to see who was going to start at No. 1, I beat him in a challenge match.”
“Tod’s stronger than I am,” Land said.
Brown knows he has to get better if he wants retain his spot on the team.
“I have no doubt Owen will challenge me for the No. 1 spot again,” Brown said. “He’s tough and he’s quicker than me.”
Brown is a junior and Land is a sophomore, so the pair should continue to push each other for the next two years.
During the offseason, they worked together with University of Indianapolis assistant men’s tennis coach Bruce Hartrich to strengthen their games.
“Our No. 3 singles player, Adam Jackson, also went with us a few times,” Land said.
“Coach Hartrich helped us with footwork drills, and he has helped me transition from doubles to singles. I’d never played singles before this year.”
Even though he has more experience in doubles, Land prefers singles.
“As a singles player, I’m more consistent,” he said. “I like it better because I have to be more active and cover the entire court. I can’t depend on a partner who’s out there with me.”
For two years, Brown’s father and tennis coach, Deron Brown, has urged his son to
develop a more aggressive and less predictable game. Tod Brown feels he has accomplished that task.
“My favorite shot is my forehand, and it’s gotten stronger,” he said.
“But, this year I’ll be able to finish off opponents with quicker shots closer to the net with topspin on them. I won’t be sitting back and waiting for my opponent to make a mistake. My goal this year is not to beat myself.”
Players such as Brown and Land might even stimulate more tennis interest in the area. Jennings County doesn’t have a middle school
“Tod and Owen and the other players are re-framing how the sport is played in Jennings County,” Deron Brown said.
“Some of the players have taken lessons and played in USTA tournaments. Right now, most people don’t see it as a primary sport, like football and basketball. It’s been a secondary sport that kids just decide to come out for without any experience. We’ve had to recruit players from other sports.”
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