Hamilton turns page

Teague Hamilton enjoyed a string of successes during his prep tennis career, feats he can attribute to his complete attention to his game.

Now, the 18-year-old is preparing to face new challenges before he starts a new career at UC Santa Barbara.

Hamilton, who graduated last month from Laguna Beach High as a two-time MVP and Orange Coast League singles champion, has been immersed in training and summer tournament play. He will compete this weekend at the United States Tennis Assn.' Boys' 18s and 16s National Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach, Fla.

After that, he'll squeeze in more play and make a trip in early-August to Kalamazoo, Mich. for the USTA's Boys' 18s and 16s Hard Court National Championships.

The Florida tournament will mark the first time the 18-year-old will compete on clay.

The trip to Kalamazoo also will be a first.

"I've never played a tournament on clay before," said Hamilton who said he trained for the first time on the surface during a Wednesday workout at the Racquet Club of Irvine. "I'm really excited for the opportunity. I'm learning that on clay, I have to be a lot more patient in my game."

Hamilton will tell you that his game has vastly improved over the past few years. He said he had not hit the courts daily for workouts, despite picking up a racquet and taking private lessons at a young age. He gave roughly three hours of work per week to the sport. Several years later, before he was to enter his junior year at Laguna Beach High, his approach changed dramatically.

He had competed in several other sports including baseball, soccer and surfing. By the time he reached high school, he turned his focus to tennis and surfing.

"That summer going into my junior year, I started playing tennis every day," Hamilton said. "I realized that I could play the game, if I put the time into it. I'm really glad that I did."

The payoff was evident for Hamilton, who had showed his talent potential as a youngster while taking part in tennis camps and playing in tournaments through the city of Laguna Beach. He won his first tournament at age seven and also played for the Laguna Beach USTA Junior team through his elementary and middle school years.

When he got to Laguna Beach High, he played varsity as a freshman and went on to a four-year varsity career. During his freshman year, he partnered with Mikey Rubel to win the Orange Coast League doubles title. In his junior and senior years, he won back-to-back OCL singles crowns under Laguna Coach Don Davis.

As a sophomore and playing at No. 2 singles, he was runner-up to the OCL singles title. He won every match during Laguna's run to the 2011 CIF Southern Section Division 4 team championship final. That year, the Breakers finished runner-up to Calabasas Viewpoint.

"First and foremost, he will be greatly missed," Davis said. "He was been the anchor of our team for the past few years and he is irreplaceable. Just as important, he is a first-class individual and I will miss him as a person."

In May, Hamilton reached the round of 16 at the CIF Southern Section Individual Singles Championships. He also accomplished the feat a year ago at the tournament.

He went 4-0 in OCL singles play this year, and was 20-1, overall, for the 2013 season.

"He has an enormous amount of talent and athletic skills," Davis said. "I think he's improved enormously throughout high school and in talking with other people, he's made big strides in his game."

Hamilton missed a few weeks of his senior season due to a "recurring" shoulder injury. He said he is now playing injury-free but still tapes his shoulder daily.

"It was good," he said of his high school career. "I made some good friends and it showed me the potential I had to be a good tennis player if I started working at it."

Tennis wasn't the only sport that he took part in at Laguna Beach. He also was a four-year member of the surf team, competing in both short board and long board. He was named the team's Rookie of the Year as a freshman, and capped his career by being given the Coaches Award as a senior.

The turning point in his tennis career, Hamilton said, came a few years ago when he started training and competed with some top Southern California-ranked players at the Woodbridge Tennis Academy in Irvine. He said he improved his game a "ridiculous amount" there while working with coaches Chuck Brymer and Chris Lewis.

His longtime coach for private lessons is Bill Korsak.

Hamilton said he would not have his game where it is now, without the training.

"Coach Davis was really cool and allowed me to train on my own there during the off-season," he said. "All of my coaches have helped me tremendously, starting with my private coach, Bill Korsak. I was told I had the fundamentals and these coached have helped me in all areas of my game."

During his Laguna Beach High playing days, Hamilton competed yearly at the prestigious Ojai Tennis Tournament. In his final trip north in April, he attained his best finish by reaching the quarterfinal round. He also played at the Winter Nationals in Arizona during his senior year, and competed as a junior at the Easter Bowl (USTA National Spring Championship) in Palm Desert in the 16s division.

During the transition between his junior and senior years, he committed last August to UC Santa Barbara. He received an athletic scholarship and will play tennis for the Gauchos.

Another challenge to look forward to.

"I really liked the coach [Marty Davis] and really liked the kids on the team," he said, noting that he had wanted to attend UCSB since the seventh grade. "I'm excited and looking forward to playing at the college level."

Hamilton, who said he will move north to start training on Sept. 3 before classes begin on Sept. 23, recently competed at the Santa Barbara Designated Tournament and the Woodbridge Regional in Irvine. At the Woodbridge event, he finished in fifth place in the singles draw and teamed with University Irvine High's Gage Brymer, to place fifth in the doubles competition.

"At the beginning of summer, I was a little shaky with my results but as of my last tournament, I'm doing much better," said Hamilton who is ranked No. 22 in the state and 92 nationally in junior tennis for the Class of 2013 by tennisrecruiting.net.

"I'm looking forward to these next few tournaments, and playing in college. I don't think I'll try to go pro after college, though. I know it's a lot of work. But, in the next four years, if I again improve a ridiculous amount, who knows, maybe?"

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