Youngster aces tennis competition


Frank Morrison may not be able to blast winners past professional greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but his game possesses enough strengths that like the Swiss and Spanish stars, he can call himself a champion. 

The 12-year-old tactician bested his nerves and a tough opponent Aug. 4 to capture the National Junior Tennis League City Novice Championship at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center in East Falls.

The seventh-grader-to-be at Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St., has made his third year of playing his most fruitful and has proven that second choices may yield one’s first success.

“I chose tennis after I became tired of baseball,” the Center City resident said Tuesday at the Fels South Philadelphia Community Center, 2407 S. Broad St. 

With its quick pace, the sport nabbed his attention immediately, so Frank sought to strengthen his strokes with time at the University of Pennsylvania’s Levy Tennis Pavilion. Singles competition enthused him, as he could use the penchant for analysis that is fitting for one who excels in mathematics and science. When Bryan Hughes, head of Jedi Tennis LLC and the South Philadelphia Tennis Association, began spring classes at GAMP, Frank decided to bolster his backhand and his brain. 

“I play to have fun, but having a game plan lets me be successful,” he said.

Eager to excel, he chose to continue to receive instruction from Hughes, of the 1100 block of South Eighth Street, this summer as a first-time participant in the league, a program that aids Ashe in assisting more than 6,500 children annually. Since June 27, he has spent weekdays perfecting his two-handed backhand at Barry Playground, 18th and Johnston streets. A fan of finesse, too, courtesy of five years of violin lessons, he has come to love venturing to the net to hit deft volleys. 

“I like to hit the ball where the person isn’t,” he said of his style, putting his own spin on baseball Hall of Famer Willie Keeler’s message to batters to “hit ’em where they ain’t.” 

Frank five times displayed his expertise in finding open spaces, as he blitzed a quintet of opponents to reach the league final. Unfamiliar with his foe and suffering from a bit of fear, he arrived without a blueprint for victory. 

“I was scared at the start and became more so whenever he got a point,” the spectacled sport said of the early stages.

Frank and his adversary engaged in a best-of-three-sets contest, with three games needed to claim a set. Usually more aggressive, the youngster chose a conservative approach once he noticed that his combatant’s aggressive swings led to unforced errors. 

“I just let him miss,” Frank said of being content to make quality returns devoid of risk.

He refrained from a huge on-court celebration following his three-set triumph, choosing to flash a few smiles instead. His family, however, will soon take care of the revelry with a big outing. Frank is not the only tennis enthusiast in the Morrison clan, as 10-year-old sister Josephine, who will begin her GAMP career as a fifth-grader next month, almost captured the girls’ championship. She and his best friend, 12-year-old Riley Cheeseman, a student at Spring Garden’s Julia R. Masterman School, have given him motivation and have gained from his love of the game. 

“My friends encouraged me to play, and I have enjoyed helping others to have fun,” Frank said.

“Frank is a great kid with awesome potential,” Hughes added of his protégé, whose league tutelage ends today.

The court conqueror will likely compete at the advanced level next year. With school approaching, he will enjoy sporadic play in the coming weeks, but he is eager to work on improving his footwork, serve and use of topspin.

“Winning a title felt good, especially in my first year,” he said. “I need to work on some elements, though, to become a better player.” 

Now that sounds like a plan. SPR

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.