'Finish' is an operative word for Homewood-Flossmoor senior tennis player Brad Holt.
The Homewood resident is closing out his four-year varsity career on an upswing, once again qualifying for the state finals after falling to friendly rival Julian Childers, of Marian Catholic, in the sectional championship in three grueling sets last week.
“They’ve been in the sectional final every year, and they’ve both gone to state all four years,” said Homewood-Flossmoor coach Michael Sacks of the Holt-Childers rivalry. “It was a real battle. He almost had ‘em.”
Holt has carved out a 25-1 record, is seeded No. 19 and will play Stagg‘s Tim Stewart at Rolling Meadows today.
Holt said he put in the work in the offseason and dedicated himself to the weight room at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.
“Right now, I’m playing really, really well,” he said. “If I can keep it up, keep up my strength, I’m not going to change anything. My stroke is real good right now. I’m going to go for it.”
Sacks saw a marked improvement in his No. 1 singles player from his junior year to this season. He said Holt finally figured out how to finish shots, finish sets and finish matches on a consistent basis.
“In the last five or six months, he’s really improved,” Sacks said.
Holt lifted weights four times a week and has continued that regimen in the tennis season. The added strength was a compliment to his strong forehand and backhand.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” Sacks said. “In every match he finds what works for him and plays to his strengths. He finds his opponents’ weakness and attacks it.”
It’s a skill he honed while playing against his two older brothers, Travis and Courtney, and his dad, Kenneth, who introduced his son to the game at 8 years old.
“Overall, I know I have a strong game,” he said.
It is a strong enough game to earn him an athletic scholarship to Western Illinois University.
“I try and keep everything balanced,” he said. “I’ve been able to hit my best shots That’s helped me finish off shots.
“My serve is a big part of my game, too.”
Sacks likes where Holt is seeded in the crowded 128-player field.
“I think he’s earned it and deserves it,” he said. “There are a lot of great players in the state, but he’s right up there with them.”
Holt has finished tied for 25th in the state the past two seasons, and he set a goal to win the title.
“I want to get at least in the top eight and make an impact,” he said. “I’m hoping to go all the way.”