James Gelvin is constantly on the move.
With a firm grip on his racket, Gelvin shuffles back and forth across the tennis court at Bath & Racquet Fitness Club in Sarasota, anxiously awaiting his opponent’s next move.
As the ball quickly moves in his direction, Gelvin returns the shot past his opponent for the match’s final point — and his first victory.
With the win, Gelvin, who also was celebrating his seventh birthday at the time, advanced to the semifinal round of his first tennis tournament.
It was a moment Gelvin, now 9, fondly remembers as the turning point in his tennis career. Prior to that moment, Gelvin occasionally picked up his tennis racket for fun. But after his first local tournament, the competition bug bit him.
Gelvin began perusing the USTA website and signing himself up for various local and Super Series tournaments across the state.
“I’m very competitive,” Gelvin says. “If I wasn’t competitive, then I probably wouldn’t want to play in all of these tournaments.”
Most recently, the Out-of-Door Academy fourth-grader competed in the 3rd annual Little Mo Internationals Aug. 24 through Aug. 30, at the West Side Tennis Center in Forest Hills, N.Y. Gelvin finished second in the boys 9s singles tournament before teaming up with singles winner Andrew Salu to win the boys 9s doubles title.
“It was definitely a lot harder because I was playing against kids from around the world,” Gelvin says. “I think I did pretty good, though, since it was an international tournament. It was a lot bigger, and I beat some really good kids.”
The tournament marked Gelvin’s second Little Mo International tournament of the year. He also competed in the Little Mo Internationals-California July 2 through July 7, in San Diego, where he finished second in both the boys 9s singles and doubles tournaments He fell to Salu in the singles competition before the two teamed up for the first time in the doubles competition.
After spending about a year competing in boys 10s tournaments, Gelvin began competing in the boys 12s division when he was 8 years old.
“The (older) kids hit the ball a lot harder, which is probably good for me,” Gelvin says. “The 12s (division) definitely gives me a lot of experience.”
Gelvin returned to the court Sept. 6 in the Celsius Fall Championships, where he advanced to the quarterfinals in the boys 12s singles tournament. Gelvin competes in both singles and doubles tournaments, but he prefers the singles side of tennis.
“I like being by myself because sometimes your partner might mess up,” Gelvin says. “I like being able to focus on myself and not having to worry about someone else messing up.”
Gelvin, who practices roughly three days a week at the Celsius Tennis Academy and competes in three tournaments a month, will compete in a Super Series tournament Sept. 21, in Sarasota.
Gelvin also plans to compete in the 8th annual Little Mo Internationals-Florida, the third and final Little Mo Internationals event of the year, Dec. 5 through Dec. 10, in Palm Beach Gardens.
“I really want to beat Andrew (Salu) in Florida and try to win next year’s Little Mo (Grand Slam),” a smiling Gelvin says. “I just have to practice a lot and play with a lot of other good kids.
“At the international tournaments, I get to see the other kids that are out there, see what they are like and see what to expect,” says Gelvin, who has aspirations of being a professional tennis player.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].