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Fort Dale Academy#039;s Janie Mullins places second in USTA tournament

Hard work pays off.

Just ask Fort Dale Academy's Janie Mullins.

The 15nyearnold sophomore tennis player had never won a United States Tennis Association (USTA) match until the Auburn Junior Championship Tennis Tournament held June 27n29. Mullins not only won her first USTA match, but she placed second in the 16 & under division.

"It felt really good since it was my first time to win," Mullins said. "I really wasn't expecting to place at all. It surprised me."

Fort Dale Academy's tennis coach Johnny Mack Brown, who also teaches Mullins private lessons, said that hard work and determination has helped Mullins improve her game and that the changes in her game are very noticeable.

"This time last year, Janie was really struggling," Brown said. "She just kept playing the tournaments; she's played more tournaments than probably anybody else on the team, and that really helped her out as far as the tennis season last year is concerned. She had failed to win any matches in the tournaments, but last year when she got to tryouts for the tennis team, she did really well."

As a freshman, Mullins was the Lady Eagles' fifthnseeded player. She finished the season with an undefeated record, won district and advanced to the semifinals of the Alabama Independent School Association's state tournament. She credits her improvements to continuous practice.

"I practice whenever I have free time," Mullins said. "I hit around a lot and my serve has gotten a whole lot better."

Brown believes that Mullins' best quality is her quickness and ability to keep the ball in play. He said her Lady Eagle teammates have nicknamed her the "human backboard". He said Mullins' ability to keep the ball in play helped her perform well in the championships.

"She really improved her serve, but she kept the ball back in play," Brown said. "She's also improved on putting the ball away since the tennis team season. Her forehand was a little bit stronger, but again she just keeps the ball in play. She's real fast and can run the ball down."

Mullins said her serve has improved because she has started swinging through the ball, which keeps the ball in play. She also said she adjusted her forehand play.

"I changed around my forehand and it really helped because I usually lob it up," Mullins said. "I decided to go with something a little more aggressive and it turned out that it improved my game."

Brown believes that Mullins has a good shot at being Fort Dale's secondnseeded player this coming season. Her hard work may help her secure that position.