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Terrific Twosome
Parks sister taking the junior tennis world by storm

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

Venus and Serena Williams might be the most dominating pair of siblings to ever play the game of tennis.

But some day that might all change.

The next generation of professional tennis playing sisters could come from right here in the Southern Crescent as Mikayla and Alycia Parks are beginning to take the tennis world by storm.

Alycia, 8, is ranked 38th in her age bracket and Mikayla, 9, is 53rd.

They are expected to quickly climb the rankings ladder in the next couple of months.

The Park's sisters, who attend Locust Grove Elementary School, rise in the world of junior tennis came almost overnight.

Mikayla and Alycia were already talented softball players, but discovered the game of tennis by accident when their mother Erica bought them rackets as a reward for getting all "A"s on their report cards.

Although she didn't realize it at the time, her purchase might have paved the way for her daughters' future careers.

"My wife wanted to give our kids something for making good grades, and really didn't know what to do, so she ended up buying the tennis rackets. When she called me to tell me they were really good at hitting the ball, I didn't want to believe it until I saw they could really play, now that's all they want to do," said their father Michael Parks.

Michael, a former professional basketball player, who played in Philadelphia, Minnesota and in Italy, is no longer skeptical about his daughters' abilities to serve, volley, hit ground strokes and do whatever else it takes to win on the court.

"They want to play professional tennis someday. As a parent, the thing my wife and I need to do is get them to the place they need to be. For the first few months, I wanted to see where they were going with it. They love tennis, and they have it in their minds that's what they want to do," he said.

The Parks sisters started learning the game by taking lessons with local tennis coach Jo Ann Compton. They then started practicing with Wes Fuller, before moving on to their current coach James A Harrell, who is the Director of Junior Development at Sugar Creek Tennis Center.

"We have had so many people influence them to play and help them out," Michael said.

Mikayla and Alycia just returned from the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, where they impressed the long-time tennis instructor.

There's a chance someday Mikayla and Alycia will move to Florida and attend his tennis academy full-time.

"We are just trying to wait and see on something like that," Michael said. "They are still really young right now, so we don't want to rush them."

Bollettieri has been a high-profile tennis coach for nearly three decades. He is responsible for developing the professional careers of some of the games best, including the Williams sisters, Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova and Boris Becker.

They also attended the Chris Everett Tennis camp by invitation only.

Both Mikayla and Alycia are enjoying their tennis adventure.

"I like tennis because I have a lot of fun playing it," said Mikayla.

Alycia echoed her sister's love toward the game.

"Playing tennis is a lot of fun,' she said. " I especially like hitting my forehand."

Harrell thinks the future is bright for the local tennis players, but he is trying to bring them along slowly, making sure everyone involved in their development as players remembers they are just children.

"I was impressed with their fortitude and their court etiquette," Harrell said. "Kids normally struggle until the age of 12, but I was very impressed with what they are doing now. There is a lot more development ahead of them because they are still young, but the progress I see, I think they have a lot of growth for the game."

The Parks sisters work with Harrell and his junior tennis program Monday, Wednesday and Friday with one rule-they must keep their grades up, or they don't get to play."

"Education is first, and the opportunity to play tennis is just a secondary thing, and I think they have shown that by excelling in school. If they don't do that, they can't come to practice, Harrell said."

The sisters are already getting focused on tournament tennis and the busy summer ahead. Mikayla is gearing up to play in the 12-year-old division, and Alicia will stay in the 10-year-old division.

"We don't really want them competing in the same age bracket or against each other right now," Michael Parks said. "We feel it will benefit both of them to play in different age groups."

Thursday morning the Henry County sisters were scheduled to make an appearance on Fox's Good Day Atlanta.

It's might be their television debut, but it probably won't be their last time in front of the camera.