CHATHAM, NJ - Scarlett Blydenburgh did quite well for herself in 2013 as a 90-pound freshman tennis player for Chatham High. The first-singles player would wait on the baseline and hit back whatever came her way.
That approach won her the Morris County Tournament singles championship, helped Chatham win the NJSIAA sectional title and earned her a record of 20-4-1 in reaching the quarterfinal round of the individual state tournament.
A year later, Blydenburgh, at 5-4 and 115 pounds, is determined to throw her weight around by taking her game to her opponents.
"I'm being more aggressive," Blydenburgh, soon to be 15, said. "Last year, I was more passive and most times waiting to see if the player would miss the ball and how it turned out. Now I'm trying to add quick pressure to them instead of delayed pressure. As I get older and better, my opponents get older and better. You just have to take the risk, you have to execute the shot instead of waiting for the next ball to come back."
Blydenburgh has won nine straight matches heading into the Morris County Tournament this weekend, when she will be the top seed and the defending first-singles champion.
Scarlett Blydenburgh is the TAP Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"She is trying to put balls away earlier than she did last year," Chatham coach James Cai said. She's better when she's more aggressive. I have to constantly remind her to go to the net. She still misses those easy putaways."
Because she plays tennis all-year-round Blydenburgh spends a lot of time at Centercourt in Chatham, honing her game. But she still enjoys being part of the Chatham High team.
"I'm like an average girl with a tennis dream," Blydenburgh said. "I like to read - not for doing homework - and hang out with my friends and teammates."
But the soft-spoken teenager with the blue braces is still in transition when it comes to her game. Ranked No. 30 in the East and 400 nationally in the USTA 16s age group, Blydenburgh decided she had to change her mental approach over the summer.
"Tennis is all about risks," she said. "Playing a lot of tournaments over the summer, I noticed that a lot of the girtls were aggressive coming to the net. I wanted to have that same goal and not play my opponents game, just play my game. I might be considered an aggressive baseliner. I'm trying to play an all-around game now because you can't just be an aggressive baseliner and win all you matches."
Blydenburgh didn't get her passion for tennis from her parents. Her mother, Tatyana, was an ice skater and her father, Donald, played football.
"I used to do gymnastics and ballet," Blydenburgh said. "I got kicked out of ballet because I was being too noisy and socializing. When I was 10, my mother said you can pick between swimming and tennis as a sport you're going to play. I chose tennis because, every time I hit the ball, I wanted to play more."
Blydenburgh spends hours every day playing tennis, with the ultimate goal of becoming a professional player.
"I'm working on my volley and net skills," she said. "Watching the players on TV, you don't see any of them just standing at the baseline. They always look for opportunities to attack and come up to the net."
Scarlett Blydenburgh talks about her new approach to tennis this season in video below
Scarlett Blydenburgh as 90-pound Chatham freshman last fall in video below