Ray makes waves nationally

By Staff
FULL SWING Meridian High's David Ray returns a shot during a recent match. He is ranked No. 118 in the nation. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
April 11, 2002
Meridian High School has had its share of standout tennis players. But for the first time in memory, it has a nationally ranked player in boys singles phenom David Ray.
Ray finished the 2001 season ranked No. 118 in the United States Tennis Association's national rankings for boys 16-and-under. The ranking came about after Ray made the Top 16 at last year's Southern Zone Championships and earned a trip to the Nationals.
Ray had entered last season ranked No. 143 in the nation, at the end of the year, the rankings were updated putting him at No. 118. The bad news, though, is Ray is now 17 and pretty much has to start over again, competing in the 18-year-old bracket.
So far, Ray is off to a good start having a won an 18-year-old qualifying tournament in Grenada.
The Southern Zone is made up of nine Southern states. Florida, because of its strength in tennis, is a separate zone. A player who does exceptionally well at the zones can earn a way into the qualifying rounds of the United States Open and many will play in the Junior U.S. Open.
Between now and then, Ray will concentrate on Meridian High School tennis. He is currently 10-0 on the season. Last May, Ray advanced to the State 5A boys finals before falling to Madison Central's John Hill.
A good number of the top players at the Southern Zone level, don't even bother playing high school tennis. Many are encouraged to stay away from it and play satellite tournaments.
I've heard of some who don't play at their high schools, but I really like it," Ray said. "Besides, 5A is tough. There are a lot of good players out there.
One concession, Ray does make apart from the tennis team, is practice. He generally practices against someone like Ken Kelling who he worked out with on Tuesday afternoon. He also regularly practices against the tennis pro at Northeast complex.
Ray began playing tennis at eight. About 10, he said he began getting confidence in his game.
Now, as a player, Ray says the base-line is his preferred territory. Just don't ask him his strength.
A big part of his game, though, is the thought process. "You have to keep thinking. Most of the really good players have a big weapon, either a big serve, or the big forehand. So, you don't want to put yourself into a specific type of game," Ray said.
College tennis is definitely in the future.
I haven't given it deep thought, but I do want to play college tennis. State and Ole Miss all have good program as does USM."