By R. Alan Richardson
Morgan County’s former head tennis coach, Greg Thompson, said, “The best tennis player in the county is in the sixth grade at Morgan County Middle School.” That’s a pretty strong statement from someone who really knows his tennis and may be right in his assessment. The young man he was referring to is 11-year-old Jackson Kirby.
Kirby was undefeated this past season as the number one singles player on the MCMS tennis team under Coach Jill Cribbs and also competes in the USTA 12-under southern junior competition throughout the Southeast and in Georgia. Currently, he is ranked as the number 21 player in Georgia. In the Southern Region his ranking out of over 1200 players is at number 96.
Jackson is also a superb baseball player who plays for the Walton Lookouts, a travel team out of Social Circle that won the USSSA 11-under State Championship a year ago. His dad, Daryl Kirby, told us, “Jackson’s rise in the USTA tennis circuit this year is tied to baseball. He has always played part-time tennis and full-time baseball until this season, when his baseball coaches agreed to let him go after the tennis while still being a Lookout. For a travel team to let Jackson do that is a credit to the Lookouts coaches (Brent Moore) and parents. Most of the Lookouts play multiple sports, which is great when the kids are at that age. Because of tennis, Jackson is only able to make about half the baseball practices and tournaments this year. Most travel ball teams at that level would have cut him loose. Part-time baseball also allowed Jackson to begin working with a tennis coach, Mike Beck in Athens. Mike is the best stroke coach I’ve seen. He’s been great for Jack. The Beck Tennis Academy is molding some of the top junior boys and girls in the South right now.”
Jackson started playing tennis around the age of six while his dad was working with his older sister Avery. She is the number two singles player of the Morgan County tennis squad that just won a region championship. He was quick to say, “Tennis is my first love. I like team sports, but I really like being out there by myself competing one-on-one and getting ranked high.” When asked about the best part of his game, Kirby said, “My serve is pretty good. I’ve learned how to hit the spin serve now that is more consistent. I also think my two-handed backhand is good too.”
The budding star and parents, Daryl and Stacey, had high praise for Jackson’s new coaches at Beck Tennis Academy at Jennings Mill, Mike and Debbie Beck. She was an assistant tennis coach at the University of Georgia for 10 years. Here’s what the Kirby’s had to say, “The Beck’s are incredible. We can’t say enough nice things about them. He’s now able to get lessons and attend their clinics three days a week which has really helped Jackson grow his game.”
Two weeks ago, Jackson played in the Icy Hot USTA Southern Championships and went 5-1 in singles and made the quarterfinals in doubles. His only loss was to the number one ranked player from Kentucky. His wins included defeating the number four player from Kentucky and both the number eight and number nine players from Alabama.
His parents, understandably, are very proud of their son. Mrs. Kirby added, “We’re most proud of the fact that he’s well-rounded at school, with church activities, school activities, and friend activities. He’s high-energy, social, and extremely competitive. They call him the Mayor of Tournament Town. When he shows up at the site everybody notices. He keeps things fun.
Young Kirby wanted to talk about some of his favorites. “My favorite player is Roger Federer. I have some good partners in Madison that I like to hit and play with too. My favorite ones are Charles Baldwin, Fritz Williams and Chandler Brady. I also like to play doubles in tournaments with Jace Sanford (Chatsworth, Georgia). We won the State Championship for 12-under together at Rome. That was my biggest win so far.”
Jackson has set some high goals for himself and wants to play at the college level by receiving a scholarship. Knowing what we now know about him, there’s no doubt he will get there one day. It looks like the sky’s the limit for this young phenom.