This will be a Thanksgiving unlike any other for two local junior tennis players.
Rox Rogers, 17, and Karolina Dobiecka, 13, who play out of Rogue Valley Country Club, will compete in the USTA National Indoor Championships, beginning Friday.
Rogers, from Talent, is in the Boys 18 tournament in Overland Park, Kansas, and Dobiecka, from Ashland, will play in the Girls 14 event in Toledo, Ohio.
They are the first Level 1 tournaments — the highest for juniors — either has played, and both are young for their divisions, meaning they’ll be eligible to return to the divisions next year.
“It’s pretty cool that we have two kids that are actually that level down here,” said Kory Rogers, Rox’s father and the director of tennis at RVCC.
The Rogers enjoyed a typical Thanksgiving celebration a bit early on Wednesday, minus a spate of televised football games, and were to head east early Thursday morning. Dobiecka flew out Wednesday.
The Northwest Division received one at-large berth to nationals in each of eight age and gender divisions. Rox Rogers and Dobiecka, each ranked in the region’s top 10, applied for the berths and were chosen by the USTA.
Rogers finished second in the Class 5A state championships for Ashland last spring as a junior after winning the doubles title with Kai Weston as a sophomore.
The level of players he’ll see this week, however, is “not even close” to any he’s competed against.
“Everybody who’s there deserves to be there,” said Rogers, who in the summer won the Big Al’s open tournament and competed in a Level 2 event in Oklahoma City. “There will be no weak spots. Everybody is super good and top level. I’m not expecting to win it, but I’m hoping I can get close to some of these kids.”
There is little pressure to perform well, he said, because he’s one of the lower-ranked players this go-round.
But, he added, “I am representing the Northwest, which is pretty interesting.”
Rogers’ opening opponent will be Adam Oscislawski, from Scottsdale, Arizona. Oscislawski, like Rogers a high school senior, recently signed a letter of intent to play for Rice, turning down a half-dozen other touted programs, including Stanford.
At 6-foot-4, 193 pounds, Rogers’ strength is, well, his strength. He prefers to overpower opponents.
“I like to think of myself as a big hitter instead of one who stays in the point and plays five-hour matches,” he said. “I like to shorten points.”
At nationals, every player will be willing to extend matches and go the distance.
“I have to be prepared to get really sweaty and grind it out,” said Rogers. “They have everything I have and more, so I have to play my best tennis yet to stay with them.”
Rogers has a couple front-runners as college options but remains undecided on where he’ll go.
Dobiecka has decided on the school she’ll play for: Ashland High. Though only an eighth-grader, and home-schooled, she plans to compete for the Grizzlies a year early and skip her senior year.
The Girls 14 draw hasn’t been done, so she doesn’t know who her first opponent will be Friday.
“I’m definitely a bit nervous,” she said. “These are the top players in the country I’m going to be playing.”
Whereas Rogers is a power player, Dobiecka’s game is “precision,” said Kory Rogers.
“She’s really a great grinder,” said the instructor. “What that means is, she has very quick footwork. She doesn’t miss much. She’s like a wall. She never misses, and if you slightly mess up, she attacks and puts you away.”
That style of player is particularly frustrating to play against, he added.
Dobiecka didn’t play as many tournaments this past summer as she might have wanted, in part because she spent five weeks at a tennis academy in Southern California. It was her first time there and she plans to return.
This week, her goal is to “win a few matches. Even if I don’t, I’m hoping to play my very best.”
The biggest benefit for the two players this week will be experience, said Kory Rogers.
“This year, we’re looking to see how many rounds we can get through,” he said. “Next year, it’s to win it. That’s our mindset.”
— Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org