‘Doing my own thing’: Alabama’s top girls junior tennis player is Huntsville homeschooler

This article was posted on March 7, 2017 in the Huntsville Times and on AL.com

To know Alee Clayton stands alone on a tennis court is not a misnomer.

Alee ClaytonAlee Clayton. (Submitted) 

 

Not only is the Huntsville resident the only tennis player in her family, the 17-year-old is also alone at the top of the state rankings as the No. 1 player in the girls 18-under division. She also was recently awarded the honor of Alabama Female Junior Player of the Year by the Alabama Tennis Association.

For Clayton, alone is just what she likes.

“I love the solo aspect of the sport,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed doing my own thing. I like the fact I sort of have a team aspect within the sport with my coaches and family.”

Clayton posted a 52-31 match record last season. The 5-foot-7, left-handed player is ranked No. 15 in the south and No. 97 nationally.

Her record on the court is impressive, to say the least, only having losing marks against higher ranked players listed as a five-Star and blue chip.

Clay, a four-star recruit, has been recruited by an array of colleges, but has yet to make up her mind where she will play while studying sports broadcasting. Among the the schools showing interest are Furman, Davidson, Georgia, Ole Miss, Louisville and Kentucky.

Clayton attended Randolph before changing to a home school program as a sophomore. Today, as a junior, she is enrolled in the Laurel Springs Home School Program, which is based in California. Clayton has no regrets about stepping away from a traditional school. After all, she likes the alone atmosphere of home school.

Clayton’s strong serve has been clocked at 93 miles per hour.

“I’m someone who cares about tennis, a lot,” Clayton said. “I’m competitive, have a big serve, like to go to the net and normally don’t have a lot of long points. I have a strong forehand and I’m physically fit, but not over the top.”

Her love for tennis began from a crush she had on a boy in the third grade. To be able to spend some quality time with him, Clayton took tennis lessons with him.

“I just jumped out there and spent a year with him and tennis,” Clayton recalled. “I fell in love with tennis, but stopped playing when he did.”

For two years Clayton tried team sports and played on the Randolph tennis team as a seventh grader just for fun. She soon took up the sport again on a serious note, playing USTA instead of with the school team.

“I travel with my coaches and other players, and my parents sometimes make the trips, too,” Clayton said. “I have my full family’s support as they are always checking in on me when they don’t make the trips.”

The ATA awarded Clyaton the Junior Player of the Year honor at its annual banquet Feb. 18 in Birmingham. Her male counterpart was David Faulkner of the Magic City and the two of them have played on teams together and played in mixed double events.

“I feel special to receive this award,” Clayton said.
– Bob Labbe