The attraction to the game of tennis began innocently enough for 13-year-old Kirsten Prelle with her older sister being the spark which ignited a fire inside the Sylvan Lake teenager.
“My sister was registered for a summer camp for tennis and she got hooked on it so I was always hanging around the club waiting for her to be done her lessons,” she said. “So I decided to pick up a racquet and start playing as well.”
Some eight years later she is still at the game she loves, mainly because it’s an individual sport which means whatever result is gained during a match, good or bad, it’s solely on her shoulders.
She does play other sports like soccer, volleyball, basketball which are of course team efforts but tennis appears to be the centre of her sports universe.
“I love tennis. It’s my favorite sport,” she proclaims, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind.
She is currently the Alberta under 14 champion following the provincial tournament earlier this year at the University of Alberta and that victory punches her ticket to the national tournament in Vancouver this coming weekend against girls across Canada in the U14 age category.
That prospect doesn’t scare her one bit as she was the provincial U14 champion at the tender age of 10 so she goes into the nationals filled with confidence, relying on what has allowed her to reach such a pinnacle in her career.
“I have really good fight when I’m down,” she said. “I never give up and I’m really calm on the court.”
Her favourite shot is what she terms a swing volley, which is when her opponent hits a high ball back and she will counter with a forehand or backhand out of the air.
A shot that is somewhat fitting for her approach to sports.
“I’m very competitive and aggressive when I’m playing my sport.”
She says her style of play is patterned along the lines of a pair of hardnosed players in retired Belgian star Kim Clijsters and current world #2 player Li Na of China.
She adds Canadian rising star Eugenie Bouchard is also on the list of players she admires.
She keeps her tennis edge all year round by training at the Red Deer Tennis Club and says it’s been a great help having that facility on hand.
“The Red Deer Tennis Club has been amazing ever since I got there. The coaches and the staff are so nice.”
She directs the credit for most of her success on the court towards coach Rene Simon.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. I like the European style of tennis and I had a coach like that in B.C. and he’s (Simon) just like that.”
For Prelle tennis is very much a year-round activity as there are tournaments through the winter and of course many others through the summer months which doesn’t leave much time for her to play school sports.
She says coaches have been very flexible when it comes to granting her leave to go play tennis which accounts for about six hours a week.
Heading into the nationals Kirsten says she’s putting her efforts into getting her game in top shape. She prefers forcing her opponent to adapt to what she is doing and not the other way around.
“I don’t want to switch my playing style because I’m really strong where I am.”
Given her resume to this point it would be hard to argue with that game plan.