Friday 27 April 2018

Tennis: Bowtell serves notice of Davis Cup aim

Paddy Hickey

Mark Bowtell is hoping to make a strong push for selection on Ireland's Davis Cup squad in the near future.

After a promising junior career, Bowtell took up the option of a tennis scholarship in the United States in the summer of 2008.

And in recent weeks the 6ft 4in right-hander has been receiving rave reviews from the coaching staff of Louisiana State University (LSU) for his outstanding performances on the US collegiate circuit.

At the beginning of the season, Bowtell was holding the No 6 position in singles on the six-strong team of the Baton Rouge outfit. But it is an indication of the strides he has made since last autumn that he was promoted to the No 2 spot in April.

And the Irish player finished the season with a team-best season record of 12-8 with nine straight-set victories, which led to him receiving the 'Most Improved Player of the Year' award from the LSU coaching staff.

"To Mark's credit, it's pretty amazing the jump he's made in one year," said LSU assistant coach Danny Bryan. "He was a pretty average No 6 and to make that jump to No 2 is very impressive."

And LSU head coach Jeff Brown said: "Most people don't own their serve like Mark does. On the other side, to have the super powerful forehand -- not everyone that has a big serve has something else as well."

The coaches have seen tremendous improvements in Bowtell's serve since last year to a point where Brown said Bowtell had close to a 95pc hold rate on his service games.

In addition to his powerful first serve, Bowtell has added a topspin serve and a slice serve to keep his opponents on their toes.

"I can get a lot of free points on my serve, which puts a lot of pressure on my opponent's service game," said Bowtell, who will be 20 next Tuesday.

But despite Brown's and Bryan's considerable satisfaction with the progression in Bowtell's game, both coaches want to improve his lateral quickness to give him the ability to play at the net.

The Co Wicklow native regularly plays behind the baseline and blasts forehands to the end of the rally. Brown said he wanted Bowtell to learn how to make the transition better between the baseline and the net. The transition game will not only help him in singles, but also in doubles.

"I can't imagine how good he'll get if he works on that transition game," Brown said. "There really wouldn't be a time where anybody could really relax."

Irish Independent

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