Bounces fall in his direction; Tennis: Undefeated in his past 20 regular-season matches, Annapolis junior Troy Demers is the clear favorite to win the county championship.; High schools


The big serve comes first, and if that gets returned, the relentless, deep ground strokes may follow -- as many as necessary.

Or maybe Annapolis junior Troy Demers decides on attacking the net instead.

Senior J. P. Rutkovsky, Demers' daily hitting partner in practice and the Panthers' No. 2 singles player, knows firsthand all too well.

"Troy's like a brick wall, everything you hit comes right back at you. He's constant consistency," Rutkovsky said.

Demers made an impression last spring when he had a regular-season upset victory over Severna Park's Andrew Porter, the county champion and Player of the Year.

When Porter decided not to play in his senior year, the door was left open for Demers, who has responded by yielding one set in starting this season 7-0.


"It doesn't add pressure because I was one of the top guys last year. If anything, it sort of gives me a little more confidence going into each match," Demers said.

Annapolis coach Richard King said Demers, who has been playing tennis since he was 4, was the Panthers' No. 1 singles player "since the first day he walked on the court as a freshman."

Since then, Demers has added size (growing from 5 feet 8 to the 6-3) and maturity to his game.

"He doesn't put as much pressure on himself anymore. He plays pretty calm-type tennis and takes things as they come," King said. "In his sophomore year, he sometimes allowed some outside distractions. This year, he's focused on the court, mentally better prepared, and he's enjoying the game."

Demers tried a lot of other sports, playing basketball, baseball and soccer along with tennis while growing up. Now, he's totally dedicated to tennis, playing in Mid-Atlantic tournaments along with some national tournaments that have taken him as far away as Arizona.

High school play serves as a release.

"It's a fun time for tennis," Demers said. "You have the team atmosphere, and it's a little more relaxed and a lot more fun. You have people cheering for you, and you're not out there all by yourself."

Still, there's business to take care of. After Demers went 13-0 in the regular season last year, Porter was able to avenge his loss for the county championship.

Demers now finds himself the clear favorite this spring, with Glen Burnie's Scott Nguyen expected to be his primary challenge.

"I have to play consistently throughout and particularly at the county tournament," Demers said. "One thing I learned last year is you have to stay mentally focused the whole match. If you have letdowns, you let people back in a match.

"I used to be impatient, go for the big shot too early in a rally. Now, I wait to put myself in an offensive position for the big shot to have a better chance of winning the point."

It's evident that Demers' game has grown up with him.

"He has a real good presence, knowing where he is and what he wants to do with the ball early," King said. "With his ground strokes from the baseline, he keeps the ball deep and moves it around. When he's on, he's painting the lines."

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