After picking up her fourth consecutive Ches-Mont League singles title, Downingtown West’s Payton Bradley went to work on capturing a District 1 Class 3A crown, something that eluded her just a year before, despite having come into the tournament as the top seed.
This time around, Bradley, the second seed, made it look easy, running through her bracket without dropping a set in four matches.
For this and more, Payton Bradley is the Daily Local News All-Area Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
When asked about a favorite memory in the sport, Bradley didn’t need to go too far back in the memory banks, and it was her semifinal — even more so than capturing the championship with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over a good friend, Owen J Roberts’ Meredith Lee — that stands out.
“I played my sister, Jordan, in the semi finals of Districts this year,” said Bradley. “She battled through an amazing three set match just an hour before to clinch her spot in the state tournament draw and we all were so happy. After she won the quarterfinal match, we had to play each other an hour later and we were just playing the match stress-free. We were joking around a lot and it was just super fun to be a part of.”
The Bradleys were quite a 1-2 punch for the Whippets, finishing first and third at Districts.
“My sister is my best friend and competitor and without her I would never be the player or person I am today,” Payton said.
Bradley finished her senior year with a record of 22-1, bowing out of the state tournament in the second round after coming up short against the eventual runner-up.
Despite the success of Payton and Jordan for the Whippets, the Bradleys are not exactly a tennis family.
“My parents (Dawn and Jack Bradley) do not play tennis and they never have,” said Payton. “Even though my dad likes to say he does. My parents are truly amazing and supportive and I can never repay them for what they have done for me my entire life.”
Jack Bradley was instrumental in getting his daughters started in the sport.
“I started playing tennis when I was about 7, just at a local park,” said Payton. “My dad would have us stand a couple feet away from a fence as he would drop the balls in front of us and we would just whack them into the fence like batting practice.”
Bradley dabbled in other sports, playing softball, field hockey and basketball for years before finally deciding to put her focus on tennis around her freshman year.
“I love the athleticism and the strategy that comes with it,” said Bradley/ “There is no greater feeling than playing a super competitive match and knowing that you’re one step ahead of your opponent in the physical and mental aspects.”
Bradley has held the No. 1 ranking for the Philadelphia district, and been ranked as high as 10 in the Middle States (Del., Pa., N.J.). She will continue her tennis career at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University, where she intends to major in biology while playing for the Division 1 Bobcats.
“I’m so thrilled to be named Player of the Year and I can’t thank my family, coaches, and team members enough for supporting me these past four years,” said Bradley. “My coaches (Joel Irwin, Rob Wirth, Lee Morris, Bob McCune and Brian Zanzitis) have been such amazing role models over the years and I can honestly say we are all family now. And my team members made each and every season the best season ever and without them I wouldn’t have all the memories I do now.”