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    Swing at Big Serve, Win Some Strings

    February 25, 2017 02:52 PM

    Stories and photos by Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern

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    Blake Savard takes his first swing at the ball machine's serve.

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    Director of Tennis Travis DeBardelaben was running the machine.

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    Sitting more than 10 feet above the Yarbrough Tennis Center show court was a basket of used tennis balls and a green ball machine ready to challenge the Tennis On Campus faithful.

    Director of Tennis Travis DeBardelaben cued up some tunes. Then, his finger was on the ball machine’s remote trigger. Time to let the high-speed serves fly.

    With the trajectory from high above the court, it was like staring down the potent serve of former UGA Bulldog John Isner.

    During Saturday’s lunch break, with dozens of players enjoying a free food outside the main building, the tournament invited players to try their hand at returning a high-speed serve. Even though DeBardelaben said the machine was capable of blasting a 120-MPH serve, some wind and the clay court effectively slowed the ball down.

    “I’d say it was about 113 miles per hour,” said Blake Savard, of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He said the serve packed some wallop but he had faced some higher speeds from real human, even at this weekend’s event.

    Savard said he faced a faster serve during high school when he faced a 6’7” opponent whose delivery had been clocked at 126 MPH. Savard played for Grace Academy in Chattanooga.

    Still, there were more than 10 free sets of strings available for the players who were able to return a serve into the singles court. Savard was one of the talented winners who successfully faced the green monster.

     

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