Even keel helps Tornado tennis star

By Mike Kilroy
Eagle Staff Writer

Matt Slamecka is calm, cool and collected on the tennis court.
But it wasn't always that way.
"I used to have a really bad attitude on the court," said Slamecka, a junior on the
Butler boys tennis team. "I'd lose my mind out there."
Slamecka, the No. 1 singles player for the Golden Tornado, learned quickly that his behavior wasn't cutting it.
So, he reined in his emotions, becoming less John McEnroe and more Pete Sampras.
The serene approach has helped Slamecka's game. Last week, Slamecka claimed the section 2-AAA championship and is poised to make a run at the WPIAL title when the tournament begins today.
What once was a weakness is now one of Slamecka's biggest strengths.
"Just the way he fights on the court is impressive," said Butler boys tennis coach Dave Hartzell. "He doesn't give up on a match. When most high school players lose a point, they'll lose two more because they are rattled. Not Matt."
Slamecka didn't begin playing tennis until he was 8. Even then, the extent of his game was "just hitting the ball around," he said.
It wasn't until he was 11 that he began competing in tournaments and discovering he was pretty good at it.
When he reached high school, he immediately jumped into the singles lineup and moved into the No. 1 position last season.
This year, though, Slamecka was sidetracked by an elbow injury.
Slamecka suffered a nearly complete tear of the main ligament in the elbow and had to decide between surgery and rest.
He opted for rest.
Slamecka spent six months resting the joint and eight weeks in rehab.
Just two weeks after his rehab ended and he began playing again, he felt a sharp pain in his elbow.
Slamecka thought the worst.
"I thought I was going to have to have surgery," Slamecka said. "But in a couple of days, the pain went away and I have been fine since."
The time off may have helped him. He began the season playing doubles and lost his first singles match of the season, but hasn't lost since.
"A lot of players play year-round and get burned out," Hartzell said. "That six months off has kept him fresh."
Slamecka has few weaknesses in his game. Combine those physical skills with his new mental approach and Slamecka is going to be hard to beat in the WPIAL tournament.
"His service return is one of the best aspects of his game," Hartzell said. "He has good footwork, covers the court well and he has that fighting attitude.
"In my estimation, he has no weakness."