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California Teenager Trains at McCluskey, Manning: “This feels like home.”

Chris Fernsler
Sports Writer

Pierce Manning is California-born and LaGrange-ready.

The 14-year-old tennis player is indeed from the West Coast of the United States. Manning, one of the top upcoming high school freshmen in the country, is also starting to claim the McCluskey Tennis Center as his part-time residence.

For the last five years, Manning has trained at McCluskey in the summer months. He always looks forward to coming back despite the intense humidity.

“This feels like home. This is one of the best (tennis) facilities that I have ever played at. We don’t have clay courts in California (like they do here),” said Manning.

His tennis game just isn’t the same since making this a yearly workout regimen at the McCluskey Center. Manning has tennis in his soul.

“I’m fine tuning my skills. I’m working on my backhand and my kick serve. On a good day I can get up to 100 (mph). They have helped me with my forehand,” Manning said of the tennis pros at McCluskey.

Manning is catching on after surviving the Georgia heat and some tennis lessons from Alan Smith, Stephen Vincent and Bill Champion.

“There has been a big change in my game. I’m working on conditioning, and I’m having a lot of fun. I’m getting a good workout. I like winning,” said Manning.

His latest tennis lesson was given by Smith in an hour-long practice in 96 degree heat on Monday afternoon at the McCluskey Center.

“He hits it consistently. We concentrated on footwork and tactics. Pierce is a 3-star player. He has the potential. He has a big forehand, and he’s a smart player,” said Smith. “Pierce has the desire. He wants to be good.”

Manning takes lessons five days a week at McCluskey. His parents, Brian and Jeannine Manning, are all for that. They can see a world of difference in their son’s tennis game.

“Pierce is highly motivated. His mental game has improved, and he likes it here. This is the best facility ever. This puts California to shame. They have some beautiful courts here,” said Jeannine Manning.

She and her husband believe their son is getting some upper level coaching at the McCluskey Tennis Center. He is.

“They have good coaches and players here. Pierce is pretty serious (about tennis). He has some natural ability,” said Brian Manning.

Later this month, his son is going to play in the Georgia State Junior Tennis Open in Rome. The tournament is slated for July 13-16. Pierce Manning has won more than his share of United States Tennis Association (USTA) matches in the last five years.

“I’ve won a lot of tournaments in Georgia. I don’t like losing,” said Manning, who is 5-foot-11 and still growing.

Pierce Manning might be from California, but he has some definite La-Grange roots. He is a McCluskey kind of tennis player – all out and all day.

Manning has a West Georgia suntan and a La-Grange tennis habit. He belongs here.

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