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More finesse brings more success for Collins Hill's Clark

Staff Photo: John Bohn Chris Clark is the Daily Post's boys tennis player of the year. Clark, a Collins Hill tennis player,  was undefeated by Gwinnett opponents this season, setting several school tennis records.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Chris Clark is the Daily Post's boys tennis player of the year. Clark, a Collins Hill tennis player, was undefeated by Gwinnett opponents this season, setting several school tennis records.

SUWANEE -- Power has rarely been an issue whenever Chris Clark has stepped on a tennis court.

It has served him well throughout his career at Collins Hill as he rolled up 47 wins in the first 58 singles matches of his high school career, including 16 during a junior campaign that saw him earn first-team All-County honors.

Still, he felt like there was something missing from his game -- something he was going to work to find.

And after a lot of effort during last summer's USTA tournament schedule and many practice sessions, Clark has found a slightly lighter touch.

"It was just consistency. I couldn't hit the ball in the court (often enough)," said the 2012 Daily Post Boys Tennis Player of the Year. "I've been working on that in all my practices -- just working on my touch and keeping it smooth and soft sometimes."

Clark's newfound finesse served him -- and the Eagles -- well this spring.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior posted an impressive 20-2 record at No. 1 singles -- including winning all of his matches against Gwinnett County opponents -- to help the Eagles to the Region 7-AAAAA championship and a second-round appearance in the Class AAAAA state tournament.

Collins Hill coach Wade Dykes definitely noticed a difference in Clark's game.

"He's always been able to hit the ball hard. He's the first guy I've seen who just wore out a can of (tennis) balls in just about every match," Dykes joked about Clark's hitting power. "He hits the ball so hard, people started backing up (beyond the baseline) on him. Now, he's hitting drop shots and playing the angles better and getting more easy winners. He adjusted after (opponents) adjusted to him."

But finesse and ball placement weren't the only changes to Clark's game this season.

The other improvements are something Dykes says came from within.

"You could tell he had a lot more confidence," Dykes said. "He played a lot more (USTA) tournaments last summer and you could tell from the work he put in, he was in better shape."

If Clark's confidence level wasn't already higher before the high school season, it had to have skyrocketed during Collins Hills' early-season match against defending Class AAAAA state champion Brookwood.

Clark outlasted fellow preseason Super Six selection Mark Guentert in a hard-fought, three-set No. 1 singles match that helped the Eagles clip the Broncos 3-2.

"I've played (Guentert) before during tournaments," Clark said. "I just figured you can't give up on him. You've got to keep (the ball) in play and be smart about it. Afterwards, it felt pretty good to beat a Super Six member. ... It just boosted my self-esteem and confidence."

That confidence only figures to grow as Clark heads off to play college tennis -- first at Georgia Perimeter College for a year or two, and eventually, he hopes, at a Division I program.

But for now, he looks back at an outstanding high school career that saw him set Collins Hill single-season and career records for match wins.

But perhaps the most lasting memory will be a senior season in which he combined with other strong teammates like fellow All-County selections Tyler Kallgren at No. 2 singles and the No. 1 doubles team of Jake Inderrieden and Marcus Malone to help lead the Eagles to the region title.

"The team in general has helped me gain confidence," Clark said. "They were all pumped up. That just helped build the team self-esteem. It was definitely the closest team, too. It was like family."