If Rodney Bauder lays down a bet that he can beat you in tennis with one arm tied behind his back, keep your money in your pocket and walk away.
The Columbia (Burbank) senior, who is 8-0 in SCAC East singles matches this season, was forced to start playing left-handed — and one-handed for a time — as a freshman after breaking his right collarbone in a motocross accident.
“I think I’d be as good, it not better if I was still playing right-handed,” Bauder said. “I’d already been playing a year, and I had to start all over again playing left-handed.”
But, there is an advantage or two playing left-handed.
“I have my own trickery playing left-handed,” he said. “It puts a different spin on the ball and people aren’t ready for that.”Especially when it comes to his backhand.
“That’s the strongest part of his game,” said Burbank coach JJ Calzadillas. “It’s an odd swing, but it’s effective. It’s hard to read when it comes off his racket.”
Bauder, who led the Coyotes to the SCAC East regular-season title, will be the top seed at the sub-district tournament that begins Saturday at Burbank. He won the district title last year and finished ninth at the Class 1A state tournament.
A far cry from his freshman year that saw him break his collarbone not once, but twice.
“The first time I broke it was in the fall my freshman year,” Bauder said. “It didn’t require surgery.”
But the second spill did.
Bauder was racing his Kawasaki KX 250F dirt bike at Horn Rapids the following spring when he wrecked. He needed six screws and a metal plate to put his collarbone back together.
“I’m still riding, but not during tennis season,” Bauder said. “I don’t race anymore, I just ride with family. I’ve been riding since I was 3 and starting racing at 12. My mom’s (Lynda) heart was always in her throat. At 15, I had to give it up. I made a good trade off.”
Bauder traded the dirt course for the tennis court, but his freshman year was a bumpy ride that rivaled the motocross course.
“He was committed,” Calzadillas said. “He took his lumps his freshman year. He was our sacrificial lamb. We put him up against other team’s top players. Now, you’d never know he was anything but left-handed. He looks pretty awkward when he does try to play right-handed.”
Bauder did whatever the team needed him to do as a freshman. He even played a couple of weeks of the season with his right arm in a sling.
How did he serve, you ask?
“I’d grab the ball with my right hand in the sling and throw it up,” Bauder said. “I won a couple of matches, but not more than I lost. It was a learning experience. Playing left-handed was a temporary thing at first so I could still play. Then it became permanent. It was good for me in the long run.”
Bauder will have the plate and the screws removed from his shoulder this winter, but said he has no plans of going back to playing right-handed.
He’ll attend Washington State University in the fall and plans to join its club team. The Cougars have a women’s tennis team, but no men’s team.
“I could have played at Spokane Falls, but I wanted to go to WSU,” he said.