Kauai tennis trio heading to Arizona

KAPAA — Michael and Mark Fitzgerald, 11, and Hi‘ilani Williams, 9, will be packing their tennis rackets when they leave for Tucson, Arizona in July.

The three young tennis players will be part of a 12-member contingent representing Hawaii at a zone tournament which will contest starting July 20 in Tucson, Arizona, said Aaron Tada, the Kauai coach who will accompany the players.

“This tournament will have the top six players in their age range,” Tada, a former tennis player for the University of Hawaii-Hilo and the professional at the Poipu Kai Tennis Club, said. “The players had to qualify in the Hawaii State Section for eligibility. They do this by participating in sanctioned matches around the state. Unfortunately, Kauai does not have any of these tournaments which means the players do a lot of traveling.”

Michael is currently ranked No. 2 in his age group for the Hawaii section. Mark is ranked No. 6, and Williams is No. 11.

Williams will be attending the Arizona zone tournament as an alternate while the Fitzgerald brothers will be playing in the 12-year-old class.

Tada said the players, Michael and Mark with six years of experience on the courts, and Williams with two years of experience, earn points by participating in the tournament rounds. They do not have to win a tournament to score points.

“They had Hydro Flasks as prizes,” said Hi‘ilani’s mother, Ely, during a practice with Tada at the Kapaa tennis courts. “These are good prizes because the kids are using them. Michael ended up winning the 14 and Under bracket at the Kona tournament (two weeks, ago). It was a sight to see because when he got on the courts, he was facing all these boys who were much bigger and taller than himself.”

Ely said the trip to Arizona is only the start of a travel tour for the Kauai players.

“The Fitzgeralds will continue on to other tournaments around the country, including a clay court tournament, before leaving for France,” Ely said. “Hi‘i will be going with her father, and following Arizona, will make their way to Florida at one, or two tournaments before returning.”

Hi‘ilani started playing tennis with Ernie Blachowiak and the beginners’ program which meets at the Kauai Community College on Saturday mornings.

“She outgrew that level,” Ely said. “The three of them — we met them at one of the Outer Island tournaments — decided they would meet once a week and practice with Aaron. We are fortunate he is willing to help these young players.”

Tada said he wants to resume the charity doubles family-friendly tournaments at Poipu Kai Tennis Club, again.

“Those tournaments were really good,” Tada said. “It gives everyone an opportunity to have fun and play (and learn from each other). I like seeing the young players having opportunities to advance in the game.”

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