I referenced not particularly liking losses in dual matches. My first season of being part of a tennis coach in three years ended with a dual match loss, but the atmosphere was something that I’ve never seen in all of my years of being around high school tennis at Saint X as a player, at Saint Henry District High School as a coach, at Notre Dame Academy as an assistant coach, and at Saint X as an assistant coach.
Saint X and Trinity are two excellent high schools in Louisville that have a long shared rivalry across academics, athletics, the arts, journalism, you name it. The same is true in tennis. When I was a high school student, Trinity beat us more often than we beat them. In recent years, Saint X has won 9 consecutive state titles in Kentucky and therefore has beaten Trinity more often than not. This 2018 season sees the two squads entering post-season play as at worst 2 of the top 3 teams in Kentucky. Therefore, we were in for a special night of tennis between two squads who appreciate and cultivate good tennis.
Preliminary Events: 54 Young Men had the Chance to Play Tennis!
At 4 PM, Saint X and Trinity rolled out 6 courts of doubles pro sets. They were played with no ad scoring. As courts opened, 6 singles pro sets also played with no ad scoring were held. There were a few players who played singles and doubles, but for each school to be able to put up to 18 players on the court for the first round of play is impressive. Many of these players are early in their tennis development and such matches are crucial for improving. Practice helps, but playing tends to bring home areas of needed improvement in ways that practice can at best simulate. Saint X won all 6 doubles pro sets while the singles pro sets split 3-3.
After the 6 doubles and 6 singles pro sets ended. Saint X and Trinity sent out a more advanced group of JV players for a match with 3 singles courts and 3 doubles courts playing no-ad scoring in a 2 of 3 set format. This ended a bit later than expected due to an exciting duel at 1st singles. Saint X won the majority of these JV matches.
The 6 seniors at St. X who have won 3 consecutive team state titles were honored, and they, in turn, honored their parents. It was a good ceremony. The atmosphere of so many parents, siblings, and friends of players from both schools watching a tennis match starting at 8 PM was amazing.
The Varsity Match Plus 1
Saint X and Trinity sent out 3 singles courts and 2 doubles courts. Each school also sent an extra doubles team out allowing Saint X to play all 6 of its seniors in this regular season finale. These courts would play 2 of 3 sets with ad scoring. Adding these 18 competitors to the 54 from earlier matches meant that 72 players competed during Senior Night!
Saint X beat Trinity 5-0 one week earlier, but every day or night is different. Saint X won 2nd doubles and the extra doubles match fairly quickly, but Trinity captured 2nd singles to level the dual match at 1-1.
The 1st doubles match was quite competitive, but Saint X won in two sets. 2-1 Saint X. 3rd singles swung in Trinity’s direction in two sets. The dual match was 2-2. 1st singles saw Saint X’s #1 up a set, but Trinity’s #1 up a break 5-2 in the 2nd set. St. X’s number one held and broke serve to bring the 2nd set to 4-5. He saved several break and set points but was broken for 4-6. These two excellent players went into a 10 point super tiebreak to determine their match and the dual match.
The atmosphere was surreal for the super tiebreak. Players from both schools stood on the adjacent court cheering on their #1 player. The super tiebreak had many momentum swings and each player saved a number of match points. Trinity’s #1 player eventually won the tiebreak 19-17 to take the match and the dual match. Trinity’s players expressed jubilation. Saint X’s players were quite sad to see a regular season come to an end without a win to cap the regular season. The match ended around 11 PM at night.* Over 60 young men participated in a 7-hour tennis extravaganza.
I don’t enjoy losing dual matches. However, as a fan of tennis seeing passion on the court, seeing cheering from players supporting their teammates, and seeing people playing tennis with a purpose, I can’t help but see May 3rd, 2018 as a major victory for tennis and for both schools. There is no way an event like that can happen if both teams, both coaching staffs, and the families from players on both teams don’t buy into promoting tennis by making opportunities for play and instruction available. A school that can field teams of 25+ or 30+ players on a given season needs another school that can do the same in order to create a scene like that at 11 PM. For 72 young men to get a chance to play tennis in that atmosphere, one has to be happy.
This season unofficially started with a USTA junior doubles event that involved 400 young women and men. It ended with a 19-17 tiebreak between two of the best high school players in Kentucky to decide a dual match between two of the best teams in Kentucky. It has been a wild ride, but regional tournament play begins Monday, May 7th and state tournament play follows. The postseason is a new season in my view. I am looking forward to a bigger finish still.
* Schools in Louisville have the Friday before the Kentucky Derby off (Kentucky Oaks Day) so this 11 PM finish was not infringing on school.