by Aaron Garcia
When asked to give an assessment of her final year of high school tennis, Myers Park’s Grace Baker gives the impression that things couldn’t have gone better. She bubbles over with excitement about the different friendships within the team and marvels at the accomplishment of advancing to the Class 4A dual-team state final, completing a four-year stretch in which the Mustangs finished no worse than fourth in the state.
“I loved this team,” Baker said. “This is one of my favorite teams since I’ve been in high school.”
The 2010 season was another special year for Baker, who finished with a 23-3 singles record and reached the Class 4A individual semifinals. It was the fourth straight year Baker advanced to at least the state semifinals; she won the title as a sophomore and was runner-up in 2007 and 2009.
She was the top finisher among Mecklenburg County girls players and earned her fourth consecutive South Charlotte Weekly Girls Tennis Player of the Year award, becoming the first athlete to do so in any sport.
But when asked about her season on an individual-level, Baker’s tune changes a bit.
“I definitely wish I had gone to the finals; losing in the semis was rough,” she said. “It’s OK. It happens. My opponent played really well.
“It was kind of a rough way to lose (my) senior year since it was the worst I’ve ever done, but that’s OK. It was disappointing while I was there, but it was an honor to play and get that far.”
But even with the unexpected loss, Baker said her senior year was her most enjoyable, mainly because it was the first time she got to play without the uncertainty of her future looming. In November, the senior signed to continue her career with the College of Charleston.
“Once I signed, the pressure left,” said Baker. “I’m going there for sure, so it made all the difference.”
Myers Park coach Ed Flynn said a shoulder injury was the main reason for Baker’s surprising finish in the individual tournament, even if she isn’t the type to make excuses. But it didn’t stop Baker from rejoining her team a few days later and helping them push to another Class 4A finals appearance.
“That’s something that sets her apart,” said Flynn. “That’s something you can’t teach. You either have it from a young age or you don’t, and she’s got it. She’ll do what she has to do to win. She’ll fight and not give up, and that rubs off on her teammates.”