HIGHLY-ranked Jefferson tennis player Gage Thompson took something of a recent sabbatical from the sport, but he’s hoping for a big year on the court now.
“I took some time off and I really missed it and I got back into it,” Thompson said. “I’m motivated now.”
Thompson said he’s currently ranked 22nd in the South in the 18-year-old division with a big USTA Southern-Level 2 tournament awaiting him at the end of the month in Alabama.
He’s also returned to the Dragon tennis team, on which he played as a freshman. As Jefferson’s no. 1 singles player, he’s unbeaten as the Dragons are off to a 9-1 start overall and stand at 4-1 in Region 8-AA play.
“We’re glad to have him back this year,” Jefferson coach Mike Paul said. “He has made us a lot better as a team.”
The Jefferson High School junior, who took up the sport when he was 11, explained that he had a recent eight-month stretch where he didn’t touch a racket.
“I just got burned out,” he said.
Still, he put the down time to good use.
“It helped a lot,” Thompson said. “I worked out, and I tried to get stronger. That’s what I did. I didn’t pick up a racket for eight months.”
Thompson really got back in the swing of things with recent USTA Southern Level 1 tournaments at Hilton Head, S.C. and Jackson, Miss. At Hilton Head, he won four matches before bowing out. One of his two losses came to a player who has signed to play for the University of Alabama. Then at Jackson, he won three matches before exiting.
Thompson has also enjoyed his return to high school tennis and the no. 1 singles spot for the Dragons.
“It’s been good, yeah,” he said. “I think we can win region this year.”
He noted teammate and friend Jordan Tyler, Jefferson’s no. 2 singles player, encouraged him to rejoin the Dragons.
“Jordan kind of convinced me to play because he’s a senior and we’re good friends,” Thompson said.
Not only does Thompson bring elite talent to the no. 1 singles position, it creates a domino effect for the rest of the Jefferson lineup — allowing last year’s no. 1 and 2 singles players to slide to the two and three spots this year.
“So you don’t just get a great player out of Gage, you get the trickle down effect where you get kids with a lot of experience at a high level being able to play one line further down,” Paul said.
Paul said he’s seen a difference in Thompson’s game since he played as a ninth grader. He said Thompson is a more mature player now and a very smart player.
“He’ll bang two or three back in a row then all of a sudden, he’ll unleash a winner that the guy can’t possibly get to,” Paul said. “His placement of the ball is very good.”
As far as his assessment of his own game, Thompson believes his forehand and his speed are his strong suits. But he said his net game needs some work, as does his serve.
“I can get a lot more free points on my serve,” he said.
Thompson doesn’t model his game after any particular professional player but said he likes to follow Frenchman Gael Monfils, the world’s no. 23 player who has five career titles to his credit.
“I like him,” Thompson said. “He’s sporadic. He just does whatever. He’s really good.”
As far as Thompson’s tennis plans post-high school, he’s still mulling his college tennis options. He said the College of Charleston has contacted him.
“But I haven’t decided if I want to play college tennis yet,” Thompson said.
Paul believes Thompson is certainly good enough to do that.
“I think he’s going to end up being a nice collegiate prospect for somebody if that’s the avenue he wants to explore,” he said.
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