For Clinton senior and No. 1 singles player Mitch Schumacher, today’s Clinton boys tennis invitational is more than just one of his final chances to play in front of his home fans.

“I have it marked down on my schedule in my locker at school,” he said. “I have the Clinton Invite written down, home and what time it starts. Then I have parentheses next to it and proving ground. That’s because at the beginning of the year, I didn’t quite have my game down to where I wanted it to be. For that reason, I probably lost to a couple people I shouldn’t have. I feel like Saturday is a big chance to redeem myself.”

It also is a chance for Schumacher to prove himself after being forced into limited action last season because of an elbow injury.

“That was actually a complication with my racket,” he said. “I played with a lighter racket and switched to a heavier one because that’s a better player’s racket. It was just the weight difference that strained my elbow. But now, it’s all fine and I’m playing better.”

He said it was difficult for him to be on the sidelines. He played doubles almost exclusively as a junior to lessen the detriment on his elbow.

“You never realize until you sit on the sidelines just how much of an impact you can have,” Schumacher said. “Playing No. 2, I believe, last year, if I get a win there, that’s another point for my team. It could have changed our record for a couple matches.”

Now Schumacher has taken over the top spot for Clinton singles.

“Now you’re the premier player,” he said.  “When people say Clinton, now your name comes right after it. I’m not doing too bad. I could be doing better.”

Clinton coach David Moore said it was important for the River Kings to have a solid player like Schumacher at first singles.

“It always helps to have a good player at the top, especially No. 1,” Moore said. “Not only does it help you at No. 1, but everybody else plays one spot further back. That makes it easier on everybody else.”

Schumacher also presents a challenge to his opponents because he is left-handed, so shots come in opposite the way they would from most other players.

“I’d say it’s a pretty good advantage,” Schumacher said. “It kind of throws them off for a little bit. You can get a good start from that.”

Schumacher said he wanted to be more comfortable in longer points, but he prefers to win them quickly.

“What I want to do is ideally get my first serve in and not second,” Schumacher said. “I want to keep the ball deep and put a lot of spin on it to drive them back. Then they leave something short and high. I attack it and come into the net. That’s what the perfect point would be.”

Schumacher said his attitude toward tennis had undergone a transformation during his high school career.

“My freshman year I liked the game, but I didn’t have the love for the game and the drive,” he said. “Sophomore year is when I got my first taste, when I qualified for state in singles. Ever since then, it’s been a drive to be as good as I possibly can be.”

Schumacher will continue his tennis career at Coe College next year.

But first he has some unfinished business in his high school career.

“I would really love to go back to state for a third year in a row,” Schumacher said. “That’s a goal of mine.”

Schumacher qualified for the state singles as a sophomore and as a junior qualified for state doubles with Ryan Schroeder. He said he didn’t know if he was going to try to qualify for state in singles or doubles this season.

“I don’t have a preference because I just love to play the game,” Schumacher said. “That’s coach Moore’s decision. He’ll put us wherever he thinks we have the best shot to make it to state. He’s a good coach.”

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