HELENA — Gavin Anderson didn't let getting a late start in tennis deter him from becoming an impact player.
And this year Anderson will have his sights set on one specific target: the state tournament.
Anderson developed an affinity for the game as a freshman at Helena High and has embraced the challenge of outwitting his competition ever since.
"When I started playing competitive tennis, I just goofed around, went to a few camps and didn't play in a competitive match until my freshman year," Anderson said. "I enjoyed just the idea of being in another competitive sport that involves focus, concentration, and skill. Tennis is like a chess match. You have to outwork your opponent and out-IQ them in the sport itself. That aspect of the game intrigued me."
Anderson, who will transition from doubles to singles play as he prepares to enter his final year of high school competition, embraces the idea of a challenge.
Anderson was a doubles partner with Cole Hasquet and Witt Williams, but said he looks forward to the switch to singles.
"I like the idea of being out there by myself and not having to rely on anyone but me," Anderson said. "In singles, you can't have the other person behind you lift you. If you are struggling, it takes hard work and dedication to get to where you want to be, and I enjoy that part about the sport."
Anderson, who is the captain of this year's squad, will face some of the top-tier competition in the state as the No. 1 player. He has developed into an all-around player, according to his coach Lance Bouchee.
"(Gavin) has matured literally from Divisionals last year," Bouchee said. "He is a great kid, is willing to learn and is ready to go and step up for us."
Bouchee is confident Anderson will have a successful transition from doubles to singles.
"He just missed on state last year in doubles, and wants to try singles," Bouchee said. "He's matured mentally on the court and is listening well to the coaching staff. I think this will be a great year for him."
Anderson narrowly missed qualifying for a Class AA state berth the last couple seasons. He would like to face some of Montana's top-caliber talent at state this season.
"It's hard getting that close the last two years," Anderson said. "Especially with how short high school is. To fall just short, I wanted to try to get better and make sure the next year is a priority and a goal."
Anderson is ready to put himself in the mix.
"I just want to get better and play harder competition, focus on my weaknesses and improve on them every single day," Anderson said. "I want to be dedicated at practice, make the initial push for state and see what happens."
Anderson continues to harness his mechanics with the idea of facing the best players match after match.
"I have to stay consistent with my backhand, and being able to stay on point with my opponent," Anderson said. "I am going to work on pressuring balls with a backhand and allowing myself to get shots to a strong point in my forehand. Taking advantage of that and my timing, winning the serve is important. To control points with your backhand is super important. Winning your serve is the main priority and goal in every match."