Girls tennis: Fairview’s Li looking to join elite Colorado tennis company

Jeremy Papasso / BOULDER DAILY CAMERA
Fairview senior Katie Li hopes to join elite company this season in her drive to become just the fourth four-time state champion in state history

BOULDER — There are some who will argue that what Katie Li has done during her first three years comes with an asterisk.

“Well, she has done it a No. 3 singles and not at No. 1,” they might say.

The Fairview senior scoffs at the idea that her three state championships somehow don’t measure up. A state championship is a state championship.

“It’s really great to be with such a strong team,” said Li, whose coach Susan Stensrud compares her to former Yankees great Roger Maris — a fantastic player on a great team that got lost behind bigger names. “You can’t really control what other people think, and it is more important to focus on my game.”

And no one should ever question Li’s desire to to make it happen. In last years state semifinals against Cherry Creek’s Rachel Scheper, Li rallied from a 7-5, 5-1 (0-40) deficit just to have a chance to defend her title.

“It takes a while for it to kick in for her, but when it does, if she decides she doesn’t want to lose, she doesn’t,” said Stensrud, who has been coaching in Colorado for over 20 years.

Said a more philosophical Li: “I don’t really know what happened … I guess I got lucky.”

Li went on the next day to beat Denver East’s Natalia Dellavalle 6-2, 6-4 and became the eighth player in state history to win three singles titles. Of those eight, only three have gone on to win a fourth and all of the four-time champs have all done so at No. 1 singles.

With the season still in its preparation stage, it is not yet known where Li will play this season. But with Katie Kuosman off to college at Claremont College (where, ironically, last week she be Li’s older sister Monica — a former Fairview No. 1 standout now at Cal Tech — 6-2, 6-1 in a dual) and No. 2 singles runner-up Natalie Munson back, it would be assumed Li would move up to No. 2 this season.

“But you never know,” Stensrud said, “she started out playing doubles last season.”

Li is one of the rare success stories in the sport that hasn’t devoted her entire calendar to the sport. Instead Li, whose parents are from China, has put an emphasis on her academics. With an impressive 4.8 grade point average, Li who has not yet chosen where she will go to school next year, will have her pick of schools.

“And if they have a tennis team, that will be a bonus,” said Li, whose parents went to graduate school at Dartmouth College — but she likely won’t follow in their footsteps.

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