Ever since she was four years old, Alexis Merrill wanted to be a tennis player.
“When my brother was playing I used to just drag a racquet around the court, but [my parents] said I was too young,” said Merrill, a military child who’s lived all over, from Hawaii to Alaska and now Virginia. “When they finally let me play, I was very happy.”
Fourteen years later, her parents are very happy too. After seven years of training at the JTCC Tennis Club, Merrill is a five-star recruit, according to Tennis Recruiting Network. She’ll have her choice between many Division I colleges in the fall of 2018.
“I always wanted to play college tennis,” Merrill said. “When you’re younger you always look up to the college players, like, ‘Wow.’ I dreamed to be like them.”
Her final decision is expected by the end of the summer, and a few offers have already come in. Merrill is approaching the process with an open mind.
“[I] just want to make sure it’s the right fit and to know that no matter what I’ll be happy there,” Merrill said. “Geographically, I’m okay with going anywhere. We’ve lived all over the country and I have family all over. So, that doesn’t matter.”
To get to this point in her tennis career – No. 2 ranked player for her class in Virginia – she’s focused her training on becoming more aggressive. Improving at the net has been a main goal, as it would allow her to capitalize on powerful groundstrokes with clean approach shots and put-away volleys.
One player at JTCC has taken note of that style.
“She’s very aggressive – I think that’s her strongest [trait],” said Tate Arevelo, who’ll play for Carnegie Mellon University next fall. “A lot of the girls aren’t as aggressive as she is, so she really takes advantage of that. She plays more coming in, after hitting those big ground strokes that really push players off the court. She makes it tough for a lot of guys and girls.”
If that description seems applicable to one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, then Merrill’s doing something right. In many ways she’s modeled her game after Serena Williams, who is also known for her power and aggressive nature.
Merrill called the 23-time Grand Slam champion a “great role model for girls and boys,” complimenting her demeanor and love for the game.
Merrill’s main coach at the elite junior club, Anastasia Revzina, described her student as a “feisty” player with a lot of emotions. And just like for Williams, those emotions, when channeled properly, can make her dangerous on the court.
“She can use them, take energy from them and put it into her play every point,” said Revzina, who played for the University of Florida from 2006-2010 and later coached the Gators to a national title in 2012. “She’s a very aggressive player.”
Off the court you wouldn’t know it. Merrill keeps a calm demeanor and knows the importance of staying levelheaded in such a mentally-driven sport.
Inside the baseline she’ll continue to attack her opponents and develop her game, regardless of how many more offers come in this summer.
“She’s a perfectionist, so she never settles for just something,” Revzina said. “She always reaches for the top, which is great, but sometimes she’s so tough on herself … but, you’d rather have that than a person who’s not passionate.”