It was at once a breakthrough for a tennis player and a magical moment for her coach.
Southold/Greenport coach Mike Carver had been working with his first singles player, Sarah Jannazzo, trying to get her to pull her arm back, extend it, turn and swing through the ball. The two were hitting to each other during Friday’s practice when something clicked and it suddenly all came together for Jannazzo.
“I finally got it!” she excitedly told Carver.
With those words, she made Carver’s day and then some. Carver called it the “ah-ha moment when she really started coming through the ball and [was] really stroking the ball well and she was so happy. That was probably one of my most memorable coaching moments as a coach yet. When she went home, she was smiling after practice and I smiled because I went home saying, ‘Wow! That’s what it’s all about.’ ”
Jannazzo is a senior in her sixth year on the team (as is Emma Alvarez). She had previously played second singles before making the big jump to first singles this year. Facing the top players from other schools isn’t easy, as Jannazzo’s 0-7 record can attest, but she appreciates that the tougher competition has accelerated her development as a player.
“I won a couple of matches last year and it was challenging,” she said. “This is definitely more challenging because you are playing the best of the best. … If there’s a player and they’re so much better than me, like I’m alright, I’ll accept it but I’ll use it as a practice and that’s really helped me get a lot better.”
In Southold’s 7-0 loss at Shoreham-Wading River on Monday, Jannazzo fell, 6-0, 6-2, to junior Jillian Dinowitz. She said she hoped to be able to apply her newfound stroke in the match. “It did half and half,” she said.
Carver said Jannazzo’s ability to return shots is a big reason why she holds the top spot in the lineup.
“As a player, she doesn’t give up,” he said. “She stays in because she returns the ball. She’s in a tough position in number one singles. She’s up against all the other teams’ number ones, girls that play all year-round. Sarah, I think she frustrates the other players sometimes because she hangs in there.”
Off the court, Carver said Jannazzo is a “very personable, friendly, happy young lady. She’s very appreciative and she appreciates everything you do. She smiles and she listens. She’s a pleasure to coach. She really is.”
Jannazzo has been making strides forward, but what happened at Friday’s practice was a big step.
She said, “Friday was definitely the day I realized this is why I do tennis.”
Photo caption: Southold/Greenport’s first singles player, Sarah Jannazzo, has found a way to add some sting to her swing. (Credit: Bob Liepa)