ELIZABETHTON -- Timmy Bellamy’s strong serve served him well in Friday’s District 1-A/AA individual tennis championships at Elizabethton High School.
On a day when windy conditions made returns extra difficult to return, the Johnson County senior scored enough points off his serve to win the boys’ singles title 6-4, 7-6 (4) over Unicoi County junior Conly Schults.
“The only thing that was working was my serve because the wind was really pushing everything out,” Bellamy said. “If I hit my second serve sloppy, it would push it out.
“Granted that we both use a lot of English spin on the ball, it kicks it out even farther. Then in mid-air, it just drifts. The higher it is, the further it goes.”
Other champions were the Elizabethton tandem of Caleb Bailey and Nick Honeycutt in boys’ doubles, Unicoi County’s Mallory Jackson and Nela Holkova in girls’ doubles, and Savanna Summers of Sullivan East in girls’ singles.
Bellamy’s victory was a breakthrough for the Longhorn tennis program, whose last individual district champion was Adam Cornett in 2003. In the decade since, the Longhorns had five runner-up finishes: two each by Carlton Tugman and Wade Tugman, and one by James Cox.
But on Friday, Bellamy was able to adapt to the conditions better than Schults, putting an end to the Longhorns’ close-but-no call fortunes.
Bellamy had extra motivation after losing a 9-7 decision to Schults during the regular season.
“I told him I was going to get him this time,” Bellamy said. “I was so upset when I lost the last time. I just started working harder from there.”
In boys’ doubles, Bailey and Honeycutt defeated Cyclone teammates Joe Casey and Logan Birchfield 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the final.
Although Bailey and Honeycutt were the No. 1 seed, Casey and Birchfield proved to be a difficult match-up, particularly in the early going.
“I don’t really know what happened that first set,” Bailey said. “It was a lot of self-destruction on our part. We hit one bad shot and then it turned into six bad shots.
“We warmed up before the match started on that exact court with those two guys. Even though we know how those guys play, it was challenging.”
Of the four, only Bailey had experience prior to this season. Still, there was an instant chemistry between he and Honeycutt from the first time they hit the court.
“We’re friends. We known each other since I was a freshman and he was in eighth-grade,” Honeycutt explained. “I never played tennis, but I always liked to come down here and hit. I decided this year I didn’t want to do track so he talked me into doing tennis. Since then, we meshed well.”
Jackson, last year’s state runner-up in girls’ singles, teamed with Holkova, an exchange student from the Czech Republic, to defeat Elizabethton’s Christine Hardin and Hannah Hulshult 6-0, 6-1.
“Obviously it’s different because it’s doubles, but the competition is about the same,” Jackson said. “I like singles more because I don’t have to depend on somebody, but Nela is so good so it works out fine. We’re sisters so we’re kind of telepathic. We know exactly what’s going on with each other.”
Holkova, a cousin of Matt Holka who played on Unicoi’s boys’ state championship team last season, started training with Jackson in August. They quickly found out how their games complemented each other.
“Her serve is a little more consistent than mine, but we have about the same pace,” Jackson said. “Her volleys are a lot better than mine because I guess in Europe that’s what they work on. When I’m at the back and she’s at the net, that’s our best way to play.”
Summers rolled through the girls’ singles ranks losing just two games in the quarterfinals and semifinals before scoring a hard-fought 6-3, 7-5 win over McKenna Smith of Sullivan North in the final.
The winners and runner-ups qualified for the Region 1-A/AA championships to be played Monday at Elizabethton.