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El Dorado senior Emma Thomas opened her tennis season by finishing second in the Lion Invitational in Searcy. That was the beginning of her most productive season. She hopes to take it one step further this week in the 5A-South Tennis Tournament at Hot Springs.

Thomas, seeded fourth in singles, takes on fifth-seeded Amaya Davis of Texarkana in the opening round on Tuesday. A win would qualify her for the state tournament for the second year in a row.

“My goal for this tennis season was to rank in the top four in conference. I am number four, so my goal has been reached. My newest goal, as the tournament nears, is making it to state,” Thomas said. “In order to advance into the state tournament, I need to let my opponent make the mistakes and make as little unforced errors as possible. I need to play the game in my own way.”

Thomas posted a 5-3 singles record in conference, losing to top-seeded Haley Fauber (Lakeside), No. 2 Julia Malone (Lakeside) and No. 3 Jovanna Cetnik (Lake Hamilton). She didn’t play Davis in the regular season.

Thomas said she feels healthy and sharp going into the tournament.

“I have been working really hard all summer and all season long for this tournament. It is my last one. I have to make it count,” said Thomas, who attended the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas over the summer.

“I have been going there for the last 10 years of my life,” she said. “I love going there. It is my favorite summer activity. I have made life-long friends due to this camp.”

Thomas, who has a 3.85 grade point average, described her game as a baseliner with a big serve.

“I love to play back, even when I played doubles. I like to be able to start the point and end it whenever I feel,” she said.

“I would describe myself as a very intense player. My strengths are leadership for my team. I love to move everyone in the right direction and make sure that everyone has a strong and confident mind before a match. Physically, my strengths are using my whole body to place the ball where I want.”

A tennis player since the third grade, Thomas said her game has matured. On the court, she saved her best for last and hopes to do that again this week.

“I feel like this season has been my strongest one yet,” she said. “I have been much more strategic in my game this season.”

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