When Boulder senior Lily Chitambar lost the first set of her Class 5A No. 1 singles state title match two weeks back, she didn’t fret.
No, the returning state champion knew she just had to make a few adjustments, and the folks at Gates Tennis Center was happy to help her re-tune her instrument before she returned to the court for set two against Fairview sophomore Quinn Bernthal.
“I’m not really sure what happened, but my (racket’s) strings, something was wrong with them,” Lily explained. “They were super loose at the beginning, so I couldn’t go for my shots. Every time I tried, it would go flying out. That’s not an excuse or anything. She was still playing amazing and I probably would have lost the first set either way, but definitely getting that racket and being able to go for shots made a difference, for sure.”
When the Gates staff returned her restrung racket to her, she kissed it. That’s when her mother, Donna, knew she meant business. That’s when she shifted into warrior mode.
“I know that means Lily’s like, ‘I’m going to get this with this racket,’” Donna said. “I just think her and I are so close that I almost can feel when she’s going to win, when she switches it. She’s very tenacious and when she knows she can do it, she’s going to do it.”
Throughout the rest of the match, Lily displayed the kind of mental toughness and “refuse to lose” attitude that has come to define the past two years of her high school career. She claimed her second straight state crown at the 1 singles position and, this time around, she only lost one set the entire season, the set that Bernthal took from her.
That pure dominance in high school competition has earned Lily Chitambar the BoCoPreps.com player of the year two years in a row.
Lily’s entire life has revolved around tennis, as her parents Kendall and Donna played competitively when she was young and have owned and coached at tennis clubs in Connecticut and Boulder since 1998. Her exposure to the sport at such a young age set her up for success later in life, to the point where she could sit atop Colorado high school tennis for her final two years of high school.
For that, she’s grateful.
“I know some kids have parents who don’t play tennis and they don’t know how to bring their kids up and how to get them into tournaments and stuff, so the kid has to kind of be on their own and learn for themselves,” Lily said. “My parents could tell me about what it was like and show that to me, and I would watch them play. They set a good example.”
Now, Lily looks forward to taking a year off before college to focus on her game. She plans to compete in United States Tennis Association tournaments in warm-weather states and, perhaps, Spain as she works to finesse her skills on the court and improve upon her own rankings in the U.S. She hopes that will set her up for even more success for when she does decide to start applying to play in college.
“I think she still has a lot of potential,” Donna said. “I still think she’s going to work hard and taking that school piece out — where there’s so much stress about studying and school — and just playing this year without having any of that responsibility, I think she’s going to shine even more.”