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1997 Boys' Tennis / Preview

Dana Hills' Fallon Changes Attitude, Improves Game

March 08, 1997|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DANA POINT — Coaches and players who haven't seen Dana Hills senior Brandon Fallon play tennis in a couple of years are in for a surprise.

Fallon has drastically toned down his on-court tantrums that occasionally made John McEnroe look tame.

But it's not just the attitude that has changed. The game is different too. Fallon isn't satisfied anymore to camp out on the baseline and exchange ground strokes with opponents. He has begun to force the action more and venture into the net for put-aways. He's even starting to serve and volley a little.

Those who have seen Fallon lately have noticed the changes.

"I saw him last year and I told him I thought he had really improved his demeanor," said Mission Viejo Coach Bill Smith, who used to be one of Fallon's biggest critics.

Dana Hills Coach John Stephens said Fallon has improved his demeanor each year.

"I'm not going to say he's an angel, but he's worked on his attitude," Stephens said. "He's just a lot more mature."

He's also a lot more popular.

"I'm hearing all these tennis players coming up to me saying, 'We didn't like you before,' " Fallon said. "But that's also what I don't like about tennis players. They're so snobby. They don't want to talk to you unless you're like them."

No one would accuse Fallon of being a snob. A rebel, maybe.

Fallon often complements his crew-cut and sideburns with grungy tennis attire--long shorts and a faded T-shirt. This summer while playing a satellite tournament, Fallon learned that grunge was not trendy in pro tennis.

"I didn't know you had to wear collared shirts," he said. "I had to borrow money so I could buy one."

Fallon said fashion faux pas and attitude adjustments are only part of his evolution as a tennis player and a person.

"I was like a little kid before," he said. "Over time, I've matured. I've told myself, I can't get mad anymore on the court. It's hurting my game and my reputation. Before, I didn't really care about my reputation."

Fallon's reputation might have scared away some college coaches, but his phone was still ringing this summer with offers from Division I schools. Fallon settled on Nevada Las Vegas after taking recruiting trips to Notre Dame and UC Irvine. In April, Fallon will sign with UNLV in April and receive a full scholarship.

But before he goes off to college, Fallon has a few things left to accomplish in high school. He would like to win the Ojai tournament--last year he reached the semifinals. He also wouldn't mind winning Southern Section team and individual titles. His chances for all three are much better now that Corona del Mar's top two players, Taylor Dent and Boris Turkich, are pursuing other tennis interests and Woodbridge's No. 1 player, Chase Exon, is not playing because of a practice time conflict with his head coach.

One of Fallon's best friends on the team is No. 2 singles player Brian Kent.

"With Exon and Dent gone, I don't know who else in the county can beat him," Kent said. "His serve's improved and he's gotten a lot stronger with his volleys. But he still likes to stay at the baseline and pound."

But at least now Fallon is only pounding tennis balls and not beating up himself or opponents anymore. The record shows Fallon has come a long way.

He lost 16 sets as a freshman, eight as a sophomore and only two last year. One of those losses was to Dent, 6-4. The other to Woodbridge's Adam Artunian, 7-6.

The way Fallon is playing, an undefeated regular season is possible.

"My all-around game is much better now than it ever was," he said. "I feel like I can beat anybody now. I didn't really know how to volley. I do now and I know I needed to improve on that part of my game to go to the next level.

"You can win from the baseline, but it's a lot tougher. I learned this summer playing satellites that the better players are so quick, you have to be able to close off points."

Fallon, ranked ninth in Southern California last year in the boys' 18s, is off to a nice start in this, his last year of junior tennis. He reached the semifinals at San Diego and lost in the round of 16 at Fullerton.

But even losing doesn't sound so bad anymore.

"I enjoy playing more now," he said. "I don't feel as much pressure. I know where I'm going now."

Boys' Tennis at a Glance

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