For many 12-year-olds, the opening days of 2009 might have been spent playing video games or riding new bicycles.

Oro Valley’s Robert Sebyspent Jan. 2-7 taking on older, bigger opponents in Tucson’s Copper Bowl Tennis Tournament.

Seby, ranked #1 in the Southwest in the 12-and-under group by the United States Tennis Association for three years in a row, decided to take a competitive step up, playing against 13- and 14-year-olds in the Copper Bowl.

“They were definitely more powerful, bigger, and more challenging,” said Seby. “You can’t give them any weak balls, because if you do, you won’t get the ball back.”

Seby won his first two matches against older contestants before losing in straight sets during the round of 32. The loss did nothing to affect Seby’s regional ranking, and did little to dim his enthusiasm about the tournament and tennis in general.

“(The Copper Bowl) is a lot of fun,” said Seby. “It brings a lot of atmosphere and a lot of people.”

The tournament brought more than 1,000 competitors to courts throughout Tucson. The high turnout did not stop tournament coordinator Stacy Haines from taking notice of Seby’s endeavors.

“It’s fun that he’s stepping up to 14s, and playing the bigger boys,” said Haines.

Seby is already thinking about the next chance he’ll have to play even bigger boys.

He will turn 13 this year, putting him into the under-14 category. After a season playing there, Seby plans to jump another age group, to the 16-and-under division.

Many 12-year-olds have trouble planning two minutes into the future, let alone two years, but since Seby picked up a racket at age four, tennis has been his plan. “Tennis is a lot of fun, definitely,” he said.

Hard work and practice have helped the youngster cultivate his game. That game is based on the ability to “move people around the court,” according to Seby.

Seby also looks for game tips and things to emulate in the pro ranks. Currently, he is looking toward top-rated British player Andy Murray, winner of the recent Qatar Open.

“He has very good touch, and his forehand is great,” said Seby.

Despite his study of the game, and serious and competitive nature, Seby still finds the simple pleasure in the game he’s loved since preschool.

“Tennis is great,” he said. “It’s just fun to work and practice a lot.”

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