Redwood Valley standout will take unbeaten record and number two seed into State Tennis Tournament
Redwood Valley standout Rikard Wilkens will look to complete a perfect season when he takes part in the Class A state individual tennis tournament beginning tomorrow morning in Minneapolis.
The Stockholm, Sweden native dominated local competition this spring, racking up a 19-0 record while not dropping a single set (38-0) on the way to claiming the Section 3A title. He has earned the number two seed at state and will now try to accomplish the rare feat of bringing a state tennis title back to Redwood Falls.
“It’s been a really fun experience, and I would love to bring a state championship back to the school,” Wilkens said. “The support from everybody has been so great and I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”
Tennis came naturally to the Swedish born foreign exchange student, who began his career at the tender age of four. With an older brother and a father who both played, he was indoctrinated into the sport at a young age, joining an Academy (Club team) and playing competitively by the age of seven.
One of his playing partners and friends growing up was Leo Borg. That’s right, the son of professional tennis legend Bjorn Borg.
“Yeah I’ve played a lot of tennis with Leo, we’ve practiced against each other for a number of years,” he said. “I’m up 2-1 against him in singles, but he would probably beat me now.”
As for Bjorn, he said he is just how you would expect him to be. “Bjorn is a great guy, very laid back,” he said.
Growing up in Sweden, Wilkens played a number of sports including hockey, soccer and golf but singled in more on tennis as he grew older. In Sweden, there are no school team sports, so the experience playing for the Cardinals was something that was new to him.
“I didn’t play competitively for a year, so it was fun to be able to get out and have real matches again,” he said. “I didn’t play my best at Sections, I think I felt a little bit of the pressure with everybody cheering me on, but I was able to get through it.”
If Wilkens “didn’t play his best”, it sure wasn’t bad, as he won 40-of-48 total games, including scores of 6-3, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals and championship match.
For a program that has been in what many would consider a rebuild mode, the addition of Wilkens has been a fun addition for Redwood Valley Head Coach Justin Timm.
“Rikard is one of the most coachable athletes that I have worked with,” Timm said. “He takes everything to heart and implements it right away. If you ask him to work on getting his first serve in, he does it immediately. If you ask him to reset and have a next-play mentality, he immediately responds.” “What is really impressive about him is that he does everything possible to improve, including putting in time on his own, after practice, in the fall and winter. Another thing that really stands out is how he raises his level of performance to overcome challenges. That is clear by his record and match scores. Sections was a perfect example where he was down 2-1 in the first set in both the semifinal and final matches and ended up winning 6-3 and 6-2 respectively.”
Wilkens will open up state against sophomore Ian Modjeski of Cotter High School at 8 a.m. Thursday morning at the Reed Sweatt Tennis Center with the winner advancing to play again at noon.
Semifinals and the championship match will be played Friday.
Standing in the way will be a pair of players from Mounds Lake Academy in senior number one seed Parker Law and freshman third seed Justin Prochnow. Wilkens was able to secure a practice session recently with players from Orono High School, players who have seen both of the Mounds Lake Academy players.
After not seeing any players from the metro during the regular season, he will now have to maneuver through a tough field if he wants to secure a title.
“He has put together a really special season so far with one of the most dominant runs in our Section and is really looking forward to mixing things up at the state tournament,” Timm said.