Bailey Merkel picked up a racquet for the first time as a 10-year-old. Ever since, he’s been a force to contend with on the court. The Westminster Christian Academy senior has a lot to live up to in his final season of high school tennis: in 2012 he was Westminster’s No. 1 singles player, and last year he won the state doubles championship with fellow senior Derek Bell.

What made you want to try tennis?
I like competing, and with tennis you get to compete both one-on-one in singles games and as a team in doubles.

Do you think this year will be a repeat of last year’s state championship win?
I hope so. Derek, my doubles partner, has been out with an injury, so it might take us awhile to get back in form.

Do you play with any teams in addition to your school team?
I’ve played with United States Tennis Association (USTA) Missouri Valley since I was 11 years old.

Where do you practice?
I played at Sunset Tennis Center for a long time, but now I practice at Creve Coeur Racquet Club.

What has been your most memorable game?
Definitely winning state with Derek. It was a surprise—I personally had struggled that season and we were the underdogs in the finals, so it was a real win for us.

Pictured: Bailey Merkel