Versatile lineup helps Fox Chapel boys tennis to strong start

Saturday, March 30, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Ben Hallman didn’t want to coast during his senior season. When Hallman had the opportunity to compete for a singles spot with the Fox Chapel tennis team, he was happy to be locked into a competition with his fellow seniors for one of the three singles spots.

Hallman, who previously played on a doubles team with fellow senior Travis Malone, has enjoyed the change of pace. Will Siegel is the No. 1 singles player, Malone is the No. 2 singles player and Hallman is in the third spot.

“It’s definitely different,” Hallman said. “First off, singles is more competitive. Throughout my first two years in doubles, I only lost a few games in doubles combined. I wanted to try something different and hold myself to a different standard.”

Hallman started playing tennis at the racquet club when he was 4 years old. While Hallman enjoys playing other sports with his friends, tennis is the only sport he plays at the varsity level. Thanks to Hallman’s experience playing the sport, he is able to adjust between playing doubles and singles.

“Whenever you are playing doubles, it’s a net and serve game and you want to dominate the point,” Hallman said. “In singles, you want to try and keep the rally going and tire the other person out. You want to outwork them instead of hitting three balls and trying to put it away as soon as possible.”

Hallman leans primarily on his forehand when he’s on the attack. He tries to lean on the backhand to provide him with a solid response when he’s on the defense. Hallman said that competing with his teammates for spots in the singles rotation helped push him to get better.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Hallman said. “We all friends. It’s hard because they’ve beat me before and I’ve been them before. We’re all friends, but we were fighting for the same spots.”

Fox Chapel (4-1, 2-0) will have a versatile lineup to help it pursue a section title. Siegel is the returning top singles player and the Foxes’ top doubles team, Mason Friday and Ezra Shensa, are both juniors.

Fox Chapel coach Alex Slezak said he doesn’t put too much stock into the age of players.

“I don’t look at kids’ age and having seniors as a benefit or a drawback,” Slezak said. “It’s great if they have experience. They want to try and get better if they are a freshman or a senior.”

Fox Chapel would like to continue to find success with a fluid lineup for the rest of the season. Slezak said that no matter who the Foxes are playing with or what spot in the lineup they are in, everyone in the program wants to be on the same page. Even with Hallman and Malone moving to singles, the Foxes should be productive at doubles and singles.

“We want to work within the same system and speak the same language,” Slezak said. “After that, it’s a matter of how people match up and how one skill set compliments another skillset. No matter what combination is used, that should be the case.”


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