By all other accounts, La Jolla Elementary School third-grader Jake Weiss is just like any other 8-year-old — barely able to resist spinning in a swivel chair, having a few new teeth growing in and enjoying boundless energy. But this 8-year-old is shaping up to be one of the top young tennis players on the West Coast, and is headed to Texas in the coming weeks to participate in the Little Mo Nationals tennis tournament. While there is another player from San Diego going, too, Jake is the only La Jolla player to proceed.
“I’m pretty nervous actually,” Jake said. “There will be tough competition and I guess I have to prepare for that. I feel like the competition is going to be better because it’s the top kids. Not many kids got to move onto nationals, that’s a big thing for me. I’m really excited.”
To get to this point, Jake competed in the local Little Mo Sectional tournament earlier this year, where he finished in the top eight. From there, he participated in the West Regional tournament over Labor Day weekend with players from Washington, Oregon, Arizona and others in California, where he placed in the top four to qualify for nationals.
The nationals will be held in Austin, Texas, Sept. 28 to Oct. 1.
Since he was 2 years old, when he first got a racket in his hand, playing tennis has been as important to Jake as air. “When I haven’t been on the tennis court for too long (which dad Craig says means about 12 hours) it’s like finally! I feel like I suffocate during that time and can’t wait to get back onto the court because I feel like I can breathe again,” Jake said.
“When I play for fun, I feel relaxed and comfortable. It feels like if I don’t have to win the match, I can rally and just have fun, but I try to win, too. It’s a really active sport; you are always moving and you have to always be on your feet. I also like tennis because it’s an individual sport; it all depends on you to win the match.”
Taking to the courts before and after school, often for hours a day, Jake plays at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and the La Jolla Tennis Club next to La Jolla Rec Center.
“I like when I get to play on clay courts,” he said. “It’s really fun because if someone hits a shot, you can really run and try to get on the ball and slide on a clay court, which you cannot do on a hard court.” Fortunately for Jake, the courts for the Little Mo tournament are clay.
And if things go Jake’s way, this tournament will be just the beginning.
“My goal is to be a professional tennis player because I want to play the best players like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Those guys are an inspiration to me,” he said. As to whether these players will be waiting for him by the time he’s old enough to play pro, Jake said, “Maybe! There could be a slight chance!”
His dad chuckles. “You see kids who are in it for the recreation of it, but what impresses me the most about Jake is his effort and his self-motivation,” Craig Weiss said. “He is so passionate.”
The Little Mo tennis tournament operates under the Texas-based Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation, the founder of whom had the nickname “Little Mo.” The Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year for three consecutive years in the 1950s. While Little Mo ended her career in Texas, it began in her native San Diego.