Two of area's best tennis players -- both left-handed -- meet Thursday

jcortez@modbee.comOctober 9, 2013 

— Gregori's Lorel Rodriguez and Beyer's Symone Jacques are left-handed tennis players.

Most righties will tell you they don't like facing southpaws. Everything that comes so naturally against another righty — 90 percent of the world's population is right-handed — has to be flip-flopped when facing a lefty.

Rodriguez and Jacques are no different. Nevertheless, they'll square off today for the fifth time in the last two years when Rodriguez and the Jaguars travel to Beyer High to take on Jacques and the Patriots.

"Yeah, and I don't like it," Jacques quipped when asked about facing other left-handers. "I'm sure (Lorel) doesn't either."

Point, Jacques. Rodriguez doesn't like it.

"Left-handers have an advantage with angles," said Rodriguez. "It's hard to hit cross-court shots because we're hitting it to each other's forehand. And the forehand is both our strongest stroke."

In other words: These two are evenly matched. So evenly matched, in fact, they've split their four previous meetings in high school.

Jacques, a sophomore and the reigning Stanislaus District Player of the Year, won their two league encounters in 2012. But Rodriguez gained a measure of revenge by defeating Jacques in the Modesto Metro Conference championships. Rodriguez then won their first league matchup this season. After splitting the two first sets, they went to a tie-breaker to settle the thing. Rodriguez outlasted Jacques 16-14.

How's that for even?

According to Beyer coach Mark Gonzales, Jacques is so tough because of her consistency and her desire to win.

"She just gets the ball in more times than the other player," said Gonzales. "That, and she has a strong drive to win, which I think we need a lot more of in most players."

Gregori coach Tracy Moore sees similar attributes in Rodriguez.

"Lorel works really, really hard," said Moore. "Her work ethic is very strong. And she's very mentally strong, mentally tough."

It's the mental part of the game that Rodriguez believes has helped her this year.

"Last year, any time I played her, I knew it was going to be a long match," said Rodriguez. "I would think about it all day and formulate gameplans in my head.

"But I think my mental maturity has improved."

Basically, Jacques was in her head. What she probably didn't realize is that she was in Jacques' head.

"I'm definitely aware of it," said Jacques, when asked about dropping the last two meetings after winning the first two. "I'm trying to overcome those mental obstacles. I look at it, like, she's a senior and I'm a sophomore and I've got nothing to lose."

Today's match is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Beyer High, though the Rodriguez-Jacques contest likely won't begin until closer to 4 p.m.

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