If the cliche that history repeats itself has any truth to it, East Brunswick senior tennis player Jennifer Chen could be a champ once again this season.
After winning the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament first singles final during her sophomore and junior seasons, Chen looks to win the final for a third time in a row this season.
“It’s really important to win it because it’s my home tournament,” Chen said. “I remember struggling during my freshman year, and I didn’t know how important it was. I definitely think I can clinch it a third time as a senior.”
Coming off her second GMC title and a perfect 11-0 record, Chen is poised for yet another impressive season during her senior campaign. For her, the mental aspect of the game is what makes her so successful.
“The mental part of the game makes up 90 percent of the game,” Chen said. “You can watch someone, and they may not be as strong or fast as their opponent, but if they’re smarter they can definitely win.”
Chen certainly is one of the more intelligent players in the area. She constantly evaluates herself during a match, and that dictates how she plays.
“If I’m up 40-love, I know I can take bigger risks because I’m up so much,” Chen said. “It helps me win more points in the end.”
The mental game was not always a priority for Chen. As a freshman, she focused on the physicality of the game and didn’t pay much mind to her mind.
That has since changed. Entering her senior season, she’s one of the mentally strongest and physically gifted players in the conference.
“I got a lot more mature,” Chen said. “I used to physically train a lot. After I improved that, I knew I had to improve the mental and strategic game play.”
Higher stakes usually calls for more pressure on an athlete. However, Chen does not feel additional stress and continues to feel nothing but confident going into the season.
“No added pressure,” Chen said. “I’ve become more positive in my thinking.”
As a good team player, it’s not all about the individual accolades for Chen. After J.P. Stevens took the GMC title last season, Chen wants to bring the title back to her school, something East Brunswick had done eight years in a row prior to last season.
Chen credits her coach, Allison Clay, for making her a better leader.
“Coach (Clay) encouraged me to become more of a leader to help the other girls,” Chen said. “Last year was a rebuilding year, but I think we have the potential to win GMCs.”
Staff writer Daniel LoGiudice: email@example.com