COHASSET — Saturday morning at 8, with the raindrops continuing to fall, Emma Davis and her parents were busy packing the last few items into their SUV for what could be a six-day road trip.
On the first official weekend of the summer, with pristine weather conditions in the forecast, the loaded vehicle was a scene undoubtedly replicated in driveways throughout the region.
But Davis, and her father, Paul, were not headed for the Cape or the coast of Maine, but to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for the New England Junior Section Championships, one of the biggest events on the United States Tennis Association circuit.
“I’m a very competitive person,” said Davis, who, along with her partner, Kimmy Guerin, advanced to the semifinals of the doubles’ tourney Saturday afternoon, and moved into the quarterfinal round of singles’ play on Tuesday.
“I always want to win, in the fun of the sport. I love playing matches. Sometimes I complain about practice and I don’t want to do it, but once I get to play matches, I love it.”
The 15-year-old Davis is one of the best tennis players in New England, consistently ranked in the top five for girls 18 and under.
Her appearance at the section championships comes less than two weeks after she captured the MIAA state individual title, defeating Concord-Carlisle senior Julia Cancio in straight sets; 6-3, 6-4.
‘My parents are definitely my biggest supporters.’
It was the closest match the 5-foot-6 Davis faced during her freshman campaign at Cohasset High; she clinched the crown without dropping a single set all season. Playing out of the No. 1 spot, she helped propel the Skippers (19-3) to the Division 3 South title, compiling a perfect 12-0 record.
“I’ve had players who have done that, but not at that level,” said Gigi Meehan, who has been at the helm of the Cohasset High girls’ tennis program for 22 years.
“I had Elizabeth Stone, who was pretty impenetrable. Lindsey Grossman was a big player for me, too. I had some doubles’ girls who were great, but it’s not the same level of play. [Emma] is just a very different step above.”
Her competitive nature is not surprising.
Her older sister, Lindsey, who played on two state championship basketball teams at Cohasset High, plays in the backcourt at Skidmore. Davis also has an older brother, rising senior Christian, who plays varsity basketball.
Davis also played basketball when she was younger, but at 5, picked up a tennis racket, bouncing the ball around the backyard. She quickly came to favor one over the other, and tennis became her passion. At age 10, she was competing in tournaments across New England; and by 12, she was on the national stage.
An honor roll student, she balances her studies with playing during the school year; two mornings a week, she wakes at 5:30 to squeeze in a one-hour fitness regimen before classes. On other days, she works in a two-hour practice session.
She also keeps priorities in order. “Obviously, school comes first above everything else,” said Davis.
“Sometimes, it means a lot more work than an average kid. My friends go home and all they have to do is study, but I have to fit in tennis. I fit it in, but sometimes it’s not easy.”
Now on summer break, she can focus more on the game. And with a court in her backyard, Davis tries to stay sharp by playing against some of her friends from the USTA circuit three to four times per week.
She will continue to work with her coach, Louis Desmarteaux, over the summer in hopes of elevating an already promising game.
“Emma hits shots that you don’t see 15-year-old girls hit,” said Meehan. “She hits a big, huge, flat ball that just comes out of nowhere, and she knows how to use it.
“But more important than that is her mental game. She is very, very tough. You can’t look at her at any point in the patch and know what the score is. She doesn’t have a huge range of emotion that's visible to the outside person, and I think that’s rattling to the opponent.”
In the past, Davis has taken advantage of the summer break to take her game to the national stage, playing in USTA events in Palm Springs, Calif., and Scottsdale, Ariz., and in the Nike Junior Tour USA Masters in Boca Raton, Fla.
This summer will be no different.
She and the region’s other top-rated girls’ players will head to the Intersectionals in Shreveport, La., from July 8 through 12. A few weeks later (July 25 through 29), she will be at the Zone Team Championships in St. Louis.
Davis will also compete in the 16U singles’ bracket at the National Clay Court Championship in Virginia Beach, Va., as well as a hard-court tournament in San Diego.
And on her journey, she knows that her biggest fans are right at home. Her parents, Paul and Carol, are fully invested in her tennis career, just as they are in the pursuits of siblings Lindsey and Christian.
“My parents are definitely my biggest supporters,” said Davis. “They’ve been so supportive and they’ve taken so much time to go to my tournaments.
“When I was little, I always got in fights with my brother and sister because one of my parents was always with me at the tournament and there was only one for the two of them, but [my family] is very supportive of me.”
Paul Davis said watching his daughter excel on the court has been exciting.
“I’ve always said to my kids just be passionate about something. I don’t care if it’s art or drama or sports. Whatever it is, have a passion. [Carol and I] have been fortunate they chose sports because we enjoy those.
“I think tennis has set her apart because it was her thing. It wasn’t Lindsey or Christian’s sport. It was her sport, and I think she’s thrived on that.”
Though she has just completed her freshman year of high school, she has already set her sights on playing at a Division 1 college program.
But right now, it is one tournament at a time, getting better at her passion because, like the 5-year-old in the backyard, she simply loves the game.
“She’s [playing tennis] for the right reasons,” said Meehan. “She’s not just looking for glory or the rankings. She likes to compete and she wants to get better.
“I predict she’s going to have a long and healthy career because she’s pretty confident in who she is, and I think that’s a great thing.”Andrew MacDougall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.