Daniel Hollands needed a break from tennis, so he took one.
The Mesquite junior did not pick up a racquet for nearly three months this past winter, having burned out on the sport a bit and lost the drive he once had.
“I just needed a break, some time away from the court,” Hollands said.
It might have been the best decision.
Hollands returned to tennis this spring and did not lose a regular-season match en route to a third-place finish in the Division I state singles tournament, the best finish by any East Valley singles player this year.
“The goal was always to make the semifinals and see what happens. I was pretty confident this season,” said Hollands, the Tribune Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
The source of that confidence came from Hollands’ vacation from the sport.
“Weirdly enough,” Hollands said. “I was pretty busy and didn’t really notice how long I had been off the court. When I went back I didn’t know if I would be at the same level, but I was ready again.”
Hollands quickly fell back into his comfort level. He was 14-0 in singles matches and 12-0 in doubles during Mesquite’s regular season.
That earned Hollands the No. 5 seed in the state tournament.
“Daniel had a great,” Mesquite coach Ray Valenzuela said of his top player the last two years. “He is not the biggest kid on the court and I think sometimes his opponents looked at him and weren’t impressed. But when they walked off the court they knew he could play.
“He doesn’t have the big serve; he’s not flashy. But he can play.”
Hollands’ lack of flash didn’t keep him from advancing to the state semifinals, where he lost 6-2, 7-5 to eventual state champion James Ponwith of Chaparral. Despite reaching his goal, Hollands didn’t give himself much of a chance in that match.
“I never expected to win that,” Hollands said. “I did a lot better than I expected to. I was intimidated at first, and that showed. But once I got my footing ...”
Hollands took Ponwith to a tiebreaker in the second set. It was the toughest anyone played Ponwith on his way to the title (matched only by Red Mountain’s Zack Royal in the third round).
“That is a definite boost in confidence heading into my senior year,” Hollands said. “If I play singles next year I definitely want to make the final.”
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